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When I was married to my first husband, one Sunday morning I decided to go to church. It was exactly the sermon I needed to hear so slowly, I started attending. I felt like that place, that church, and the people were true to their faith and it would be a good place for me to grow. I became pregnant and was having complications and so many people were praying for us, I had faith to believe Patience would be alright no matter when she was born.

My marriage ended and there was no judgement from the pastors or members. When Patience became involved with the toddlers in the children’s ministry, I became involved. During this time I made friends, joined the church, was baptized, and became one of the leaders of a small group of little ones in the children’s ministry. I would serve as the instructor for Patience’s age group certain Sundays and led the class on Wednesday nights. I loved the volunteer work I was doing.

One Sunday, we had a special guest, a faith healer. I do not remember his name and when I try to ask someone, they always would get stuck on another minister who was known for faith healing. It was a great service and they started lining up people to be prayed over for whatever they needed to be healed. I watched and wanted to go. I watched and saw person after person get prayed upon and fall to the floor almost like they fainted. I wanted to believe and I wanted healing. I wasn’t worried about the psychotic symptoms at that time or the occasional hypomanic episode or the rare full blown mania. I wanted to address my depression. I wanted it gone.

I finally talked myself into it and started my way down to the front. When he got to me, I told him I was there for depression and how I had been dealing with it for many, many years. He asked me if I really wanted it until I was shouting yes. He put his hand on my head and prayed. I fell back in the almost fainting position on the floor. When the ushers helped me up, I felt a tingly sensation and felt a bit strange but good.

I started feeling so good, the church was praising this as my miracle. They used my testimony to encourage others to believe. In my personal life, I found a job. I was getting a lot of things done, started talking faster than usual, eating less, sleeping less, I felt a little euphoric and didn’t think anything could touch me. I felt blessed. The voices I was still hearing I was convinced were Jesus and an angel. I also thought I sometimes heard God. Months went by and I felt like this good feeling would never end because I believed I was going to never have another depressive bout again. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize the obvious. I was manic but just hypomanic, delusional, and so excited about everything.

Well, like all episodes of mania, they never last forever. I was starting to slip back into a state of depression. I was crashing hard. I went to my primary doctor for some antidepressants. (I still did not want to address the other issues.) I lost a lot of weight, was restless, and trying to continue to be the miracle that was cured of depression so I put on a facade. One day, one of the ladies in the ministry asked me how I was losing so much weight and I told her depression and anxiety. She asked me what had I done because those are the devil’s playground and I had been cured. It all was unraveling and the ladies in the children’s ministry started to notice, so did my Sunday school teacher. My miracle was gone.

Now, adding just an antidepressant can give a person who is bipolar into a bit of a mania or maybe mixed episodes, which are not euphoric like the mania. I had more of a mixed episode. There was energy, restlessness, but also irritability. I had energy but not the motivation to do anything. I was getting headaches and slowly backing out of the children’s ministry as it was all too much. This only made the ladies I had befriended ask more questions.

Finally, my Sunday school teacher drilled me in Sunday school in front of the members of my class and then said I was the reason I had lost my miracle. God took it from me. She questioned how much time I spent in prayer, how much time I spent reading my Bible, and why I had not yet received the gift of tongues as others in my class had already been blessed to have. She said it was my lack of faith. I let the devil plant seeds of doubt in my head. The ladies in the children’s ministry had backed off from talking to me about this time as well. I wasn’t sure, but I felt like they were all talking about me.

I thought one of the ladies was a particularly close friend. When I returned to work, she became my daycare provider for Patience. I was getting frustrated with her because everyday, Patience came home with black socks or black feet. Patience told me that my friend was showing her how to sweep, mop, vacuum and dust. Patience was 2. They took three naps a day even though I told her Patience was not to nap because she would be up all night. I would send food with my daughter for lunches yet she said she was fed hot dogs each day. One night when I was picking Patience on a Wednesday, my friend asked if I would be teaching the young ones that night. I had another headache so I said I would not.

She told me that she, her husband, and some other members of the church had a meeting to discuss me with our pastor. Since I kept switching my schedule for working with the children or I would not be there at all, they were taking away my position. She further informed me that as my daycare provider, she was entitled to benefits like paid vacation, paid holidays, and other things an employer provided to its employees. She said she and her husband had discussed with the pastor and they came to the conclusion that I was taking advantage of her. She was more like a babysitter than a daycare provider. She had no preschool curriculum, activities, or any of the things she promised she would be doing. She was not licensed and I was paying her cash. She didn’t follow my instructions for Patience’s lunch or to not nap during the day and having Patience do housework when she was only 2. I came back to her with my own conditions. I wanted a copy of her home insurance that showed any accidents Patience has in her care would be covered in full (she informed me that their homeowner’s insurance and lapsed). I told her she had to get licensed, take CPR, and plan activities. She had to provide the basic services that a full daycare provided. Lastly, since she was not an employee in the traditional sense and if she was considered an employee, she was the only one and I was not required to provide benefits like health insurance and I would have to start paying her by check to list the deductions for taxes I would start taking from her pay

I stopped going to children’s ministry after Wednesday was taken away and they started treating Patience differently so I had to have her with me during the church service. I stopped going to Sunday school too. One day, I received an email from my teacher telling me to stop chasing men and start attending church, quit my job if it was going to interfere with my work with the children because this was not the job God wanted for me, and to start getting back in the word so God would have mercy and grant me my miracle again. She said I had to wait for God to put a man in my life, wait for God to find me the right job, and let God lead me as I put myself in the word.

I was more than offended. I had not been chasing men so that was not the reason for my absence. I was tired of being questioned about how I was doing only to be told it was all my fault I lost my miracle. I was not going back into a ministry since I guess you could say fired me and asked that I not be involved in that area of volunteering. I also needed to work and I liked the job I had at that time. After my divorce, I was without a job and no child support so I was on government assistance for a long time. I wasn’t going to go back on food stamps just because some church members thought I was in a job that was bad for me since it “removed me from serving God”.

I was so hurt. For the very first time, I did not feel God’s presence in that church. I wanted to know why the pastor and others had a meeting about me without asking me to attend so I could address the issues where the others felt I was falling short. I fired the lady watching Patience and I pulled her out of it.

I miss church. I want to be a part of one but I am still so hurt and worried it will happen again. This experience crushed my spirit.

Since then, I have finally told psychiatrists, counselors, social workers, friends and family the entire extent of my mental state. My diagnosis changed. I was finally getting treatment for all the issues that were in my life. I had a very intense psychotic episode that I haven’t fully recovered from so I have been doing some of the things I need to do to recover. I know I will never be cured no matter how many prayers are said for me. I am growing. I am learning to adjust and try to make my life manageable with the hand I’ve been dealt.

If I find a church again, they must have more accepting views on mental illness and not push that with prayer, all will be healed. It is a devastating way to address these types of mental illnesses within a church setting because what about those of us who have prayed, had many pray over him or her and nothing changed. Why did God not meet their prayers? This is discouraging and leads to despair. No one should leave any type faith feeling terrible about who they are. I want to find a place that doesn’t tell me that I lost my miracle because it was a miracle that really wasn’t.

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I haven’t been writing lately. I am dealing with the voices that do not stop and lately some breakthrough visual hallucinations. I wish things were different or at least bearable like it used to be. I know I should have gotten help sooner when my psychosis was running rampant in my mind and I was convinced that I had crossed the line between reality and my symptoms convincing me I wasn’t coming back. I hid it the best I could because I did not want to go to the psych ward. I was afraid if I went because of all the things going on with me, I would be there a very long time. I also feared I would be put in a home and I couldn’t bear the thought of being away from Patience. She was very young at that time and she needed me in a way that only a mother can be there.

I am still isolating. Part of it is because I do not want to burden my loved ones with my life and all the things going on in my head. I don’t know why when someone asks me how things are I feel compelled to tell them exactly what I have been experiencing. It must sound like fiction. The best feeling in the world is when a dear friend tells you that she didn’t understand or know how to help when we are younger but she thinks she is beginning to understand. She believes me. She is trying to come to grips with my quirks that the diagnoses do to me.

Now, maybe she is not as well versed in any of the disorders I live with but she is trying. So many friends seem to be keeping me at a distance. I try to text them, call them, make plans with them. To my texts and calls, no response is given. Our plans are always cancelled last minute. It is heartbreaking for me. I have been thinking of getting a group together of members to one of my support groups of people who live in my area. I want to do it but I fear all will cancel and I don’t know if I can take any more rejection. I isolate and when I reach out I feel rejection because things never work out for the get together.

It is okay because I move past it. I isolate to protect myself but it means the world to me that a friend is beginning to see. I wish we lived close to each other. I have only visited her once since I graduated college. We have teens that are the same age. She was always supportive even though I know I scared her when she was my roommate. That wasn’t fair to her but I wasn’t in my right mind. I am so glad she came home when she did.

For now, I will enjoy the fact that she said she wishes she could have done more when I broke and had an episode while rooming together. I appreciate her trying to understand on some level. It means so much to know someone isn’t scared of you, isn’t trying to talk you into thinking it’s all in my head, not giving well-meaning but hurtful advice.  I feel accepted. I will have bad days but someone who I adore is trying to understand.

I wish you knew how much that means to me or anyone who lives with mental illness or multiple mental illnesses. It lifts me up and restores my hope. Love to you!

The Calphalon

When I met my friend Sysylia, she was a happy person always grilling, laughing and playing with her dogs.  Her apartment was in the same quad as mine.  We often let our dogs play together and became good friends.  She stood by me when I went through a bad break-up, helped me move, and was always there to encourage me. I no longer lived in the quad but I was only a few buildings away.

On Saturdays, we would often get up early to go to Central market for the best pick of the fresh seafood being delivered and purchase our groceries for the week.  Then the following day, we would spend the day in the quad, cooking our food on the grill and possibly boiling our crabs or crawfish. Best of all, we had many long talks.

It was during one of these talks, I found out she had been engaged before to someone that was deceased.  Then, in that same conversation, she told me in confidence that she was sick, very sick.  Her former fiancé had been ill, a result of his past iv drug use.  Soon, she discovered she was ill too but the good news she told me, was that she did not need to be on all the medications.  She had great faith and knew she had been healed.  I was skeptical and worried but she said not to or it would make her wish she had not told me.

In 96, I once again had an apartment directly across from her.  We were still talking and hanging out when we could but she was tired all the time.  She said she would probably never marry and own a set of Calphalon pots like she always wanted.  We would go to many of the kitchen stores in the area and just look at the sets of Calphalon pots and pans.  I used to think she was silly but humored her and went along.  Before I graduated and moved back to the Dallas area, she asked me to promise her that when I marry, I would buy a set of Calphalon pots.

We talked and emailed often when I left but as time went on, those calls and emails became less and less.  Then, her phone was cut off and no emails came.  I thought she was just busy.  Turns out, she had gotten sick just before Christmas of 97 and died the first week of 98.  In a blink, my dear friend was gone.

I am now married to Andrew.  God sent me a good man, one that wants to be a husband to me and is a good father to Patience.  One year I received a surprise gift. I can no longer remember if it was Mother’s Day, a holiday or my birthday but I received a set of Calphalon pots and pans.  My promise to Sysylia had come true!

I love and miss you, my dear friend.  May you be at peace until we meet again!

I have had a blank post open for days, wanting to write but not knowing where to begin. There are so many things going through my mind that I want to get out into this blog but none of it would come out in a coherent fashion and I don’t want to talk in circles which would bore you to no end. I have felt the desire to write which I haven’t had in a long time but my thoughts are so disorganized, I do not know if I can do this. I cannot even zero in on one subject to discuss. Perhaps I should focus on some new things I learned about my diagnoses.

As I have stated many times, I live with mental illnesses. I have mentioned schizoaffective bipolar type (SZA-BP) and panic disorder but I have become aware of a couple that I had suspected but the actual diagnosis is new to me. I live with OCD and PTSD. I am not ready to talk about the traumatic events in my life so I will discuss OCD. With the OCD, I don’t wash my hands constantly or repeat actions a certain number of times. Mine manifests in a few ways that I can pinpoint but there are bound to be others.

First, I am hung up on numbers divisible by three. The volume of the television must be divisible by three so it is likely to be 27, 30, 33, etc…My car radio or whatever flashdrive I am playing has the volume set at 6, 9, and 12 when others are in the car but when I am alone, I will go to 18 or 21. I will like a Facebook post or tweet if my like will result in the number of likes become divisible by three. On my posts or tweets, I fret when it isn’t liked by such a number.  Simple and not that obsessive, right?  Well, I also set my cruise control for the speed I am driving at a number divisible by three, depending on the speed limit. I was fine at 36, 42, 48, and so on but it has come to my attention that my speedometer is off by 1. Now, I don’t know why but this caused me great difficulty at first. When I would be driving, let’s say 42, I now knew my car was actually going 41 and it bothered me but to go 43 at a glance, the number isn’t divisible by three. I finally decided I would indeed go one mile/hour over the number that is visibly a number of three, knowing I am actually sticking with my usual choice of numbers that were acceptable to me.

Another way OCD rears its ugly head is in my writing. I have been trying to write a memoir in honor of Tammy. Tammy was one of my closest friends. She is no longer with us. She was the one friend that I could call and she would always talk to me. She would call and check up on how I was. I miss her. Tammy always wanted me to put my story in writing because she loved the way I tell a story and she thought I had a good tale to tell so I began from the earliest memories I had and am trying to go chronologically to tell about growing up with hallucinations and delusions.  I was doing great but I am hard on myself with grammar, word choice and spelling.  I am also finding things that should have come sooner or later in my story. I have 20 pages and I am obsessing on making it perfect in the order of events, grammar, etc…I cannot get past the first 20 pages. I review, edit, reread, edit some more and have tried to get each sentence to perfectly say what I want to convey to my audience. I cannot write more at this time. I continue to go over and over the pages I have written time and time again. I have taken a break but I want to do more editing when I should just get the story told and edit later. These 20 pages have me stuck and I don’t know when I will move forward writing. I have no plans to try to publish or even put it in an e-book but I want to write it and hope I do. I will take Tammy a copy and perhaps spend time at her grave reading it to her. I made a promise and I will write it, once I get over this 20 page obstacle.

Now, before I start talking about the next way in which OCD exhibits itself through my tendency to hoard, I am not like the hoarders that must come to mind. I know what you are thinking. You are probably picturing the horror stories on shows like Hoarders. Well, I am not at that level. I have been purging items trying to break the cycle of hoarding. I do this compulsively without even thinking of it by keeping discarded items that should be trash or gathering supplies for projects I haven’t even planned. When we moved into our house, I had a craft room full of supplies, containers, glass jars, plastic jars, cardboard, wood, empty spools of ribbon, and anything else I saw might be useful but to my family was a lot of trash.  I kept things that might be useful in any of the ways I crafted gifts, make play furniture for Patience’s dolls (when she was younger), things I might be able to use again, or things I thought I would enjoy having once I did this or that.

I also bought stencils, made stencils, bought acrylic paints, exacto knives, mod podge, random pictures or scrap paper remnants, different shapes of wood, canvases, art books, markers, colored pencils, crayons, beads, thread, scissors, fabric by the yard, fabric remnants, and other craft/art supplies. I had them stored all over the place. When Andrew needed the space for a home office, I did good. I purged 8+ big trash bags of supplies I no longer needed. I put like things together in bins and I’ll admit, I have more to purge so I am working on it. I try not to buy more. If I see some acrylic paints on sale even though I have two large bins full of paints, I will buy them. I have no plans to use the colors but just in case I need them, I buy them. When crayons and colored pencils are on sale during back to school time, I usually pick up a pack of each because I feel like I need more of the basic colors for my hoard.

Despite my purging, it doesn’t change the fact that our home is cluttered with things that really need to be trashed. It is not in total disarray but it isn’t organized. I have slowed down on saving trash to make something with later but the supplies, I am having a hard time not adding to my overrun containers with more items. These are compulsively saved trash or bought items that are a hoard, not a collection. I collect Pocket Dragons by Real Musgrave. I have them proudly displayed in a curio cabinet and organized. My clutter, even separated into bins of like things together, is chaos. I just do not know that these compulsions can be tamed but I am trying.

I hadn’t planned to talk at length about my quirks that are labeled to be OCD. I don’t know why that is the direction I chose for this post. If you read this, thank you. I am going to post, without much editing, reviewing, rereading, and more editing. I know there will be mistakes I will see later that will make me cringe to have made but this is one more facet of me. Some may say it is just quirky and others think I have a real problem. I see it as a challenge. I want to try to break some of my obsessiveness and compulsiveness where I see it is possible. I don’t think I can get over the numbers divisible by three but I can write just to tell about my life’s journey and I can continue to thin my hoard of items and resist purchasing more to add to the mix. OCD isn’t going to hold me back and keep me bound. I think, with lots of coping skills and practice, I can overcome some of this. I will not let it rule my life, but seriously, the three thing is not going to go away anytime soon.

 

 

 

It has been far too long since I wrote a post. I have wanted to but the task seemed too great. The voices far too loud. The anxiety always in panic mode. There was always a reason that I put it off. I got this report or whatever you would call it that challenges you to write everyday for 31 days with prompts. Today’s prompt was to write a story about your favorite childhood book. I couldn’t come up with anything. I had something else weighing on my mind. It has been written about many times since it happened but this impacted me on a personal level. I had something to say.

I have been thinking about suicide a lot since the death of Chris Cornell. I know there are tons of articles and blog posts circulating on the topic but I want to say what was on my mind. I want to share my thoughts. It matters not that they may go unread. I want to speak.

Since the passing of Chris Cornell, I put the MP3s of Soundgarden, Audioslave, Temple of the Dog,  and his solo stuff that I have on my computer on a flash drive to listen to in my car. I have more than I thought and also bought a couple of albums in MP3 format from amazon.com. I have been listening. Lyrics that once spoke to me on a personal level finally struck me that these were his feelings too. I could relate to many of the songs because I have lived in that dark place. The music and lyrics are still genius. I don’t know why I never put that much thought into it before but now I am really listening. I took the music for granted. I made it all about me but it is so much more. It tells a story and speaks from the depths of Cornell.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Soundgarden. It was my freshman year in college. It was February 1990. I went to see Voivod and had never heard of Soundgarden. I was to the right of the stage,  a little ways back. They took the stage and I was blown away by Chris Cornell’s voice. I was totally in a trance, eyes focused on him, and I was instantly a fan. I was so close I could see his beautiful eyes. I developed quite a crush that night. He was like no other vocalist I had ever seen. I told my friends back home about them but they hadn’t had their breakout album and I was mostly ignored. They came around eventually. I told them they were special. They were amazing.

I saw them again sometime after I turned 21. I remember it because I was able to buy drinks at the concert. I had more than I should have that night. Pearl Jam was first. They put on a good show and I enjoyed it but I was there to see Soundgarden. When Chris Cornell took the stage, I was too far back to see him well. He climbed up on something at one point but I was still too far away from really seeing him. I left my group of friends tried to run to the stage. Then I stopped. Suddenly, I was surrounded by a huge mosh pit and I was only halfway to the stage. I had been in pits before but this one seemed enormous and I was stuck in the very center. Then, one of my friends came after me and took me back to the group. I wanted to get to the stage but it never happened. Those were the only two times I saw him live.

I followed Chris Cornell’s music. I was sad  Soundgarden disbanded but I listened to his stuff with Temple of the Dog, Audioslave and solo albums. He had a special place in my heart. If I remember correctly, he was one of the first major bands that I saw live in Austin and it was in a small venue where I was so close. The lyrics made me feel good, made me feel alive and sometimes made me cry. He seemed so tortured now that I stopped to really listen. I remember his openness when he battled alcoholism and drug abuse. He spent time in rehab. I felt like he lived with depression but it wasn’t until his death that I read he struggled with it for a long time. I should have known. No one can write like that and not have experienced it.

Cornell, over all the grunge singers of  that came out of the 90s, seemed to have it all together. He was winning. Soundgarden regrouped in 2010 and the music was still great. He was married to someone who he obviously loved and became a family man. I enjoyed reading articles or hearing interviews of him. He was so alive and making amazing music and everything seemed good. He seemed to be living a charmed life. He had beat the cursed fate of the many grunge singers he started with and he was going strong.

Then, the morning of May 18th, I heard the news from my husband Chris Cornell was dead. Later that day, I heard that it had been ruled a suicide. I was crushed as were many fans. I had not really listened to him much in a while and now he was gone. That wasn’t the worst part. He died by suicide. I am so happy all the reports and blogs I have read state he died by suicide and not that he committed suicide. The words matter.

I have battled depression and had many episodes. I have been to that point where the only answer seemed to be death. I don’t know why I never went through with it. Maybe because I didn’t want to die. I wanted the pain of life to stop. So, I became a risk taker. I never expected to live passed 30. Often, I felt I didn’t want to live a long life. I lived carelessly. I lived like I didn’t care if I saw the next day. I drank too much and did other things that were put me in a bad place and I pushed it to the limits. I wanted it all to end. I thought I would kill myself slowly and that it wouldn’t really take long. I was lost. I know what that kind of darkness feels like. It swallows you whole and you can see no light of hope. When you are there, the end sounds like peace and freedom. I was one of the lucky ones. I started to have hope and now I have lived more than 16 years after the age I thought I would die. I still see hope when the darkness falls. That darkness was hell.

It hurt to think that he was in that place. It made me sad that he did not survive the demons he battled. I don’t like the thought of anyone feeling that low and this hit me like a ton of bricks. I am listening to his lyrics and I am mad that I didn’t know. His lyrics told me but I was too busy thinking about what it meant to me. I didn’t even think about the hell he must be going through to write lyrics like that. I didn’t want to think of it. Part of me wishes I was there was with him, maybe I could have reached him, said some magic words but honestly, what could I have said. Who I am? What difference could a dreamy eyed fan. He had a good life it seemed. This was a shock. He had reached the point of no return and now he is gone.

I thought I would get to see him live again someday. I thought there was plenty of time. I thought there would always be Chris Cornell making music. He wasn’t meant to meet such a tragic end. This wasn’t supposed to happen, not to him.

I have been fighting to understand. I have so many emotions. They are raw and it hurts. The worst part is I will heal in time but he will be no more. All my friends say they are here for me but honestly, if I found myself that low again, I wouldn’t reach out at all. I would desperately want someone to call or even send a text, “How are you?” but I wouldn’t want to burden them and suffer alone. I hope I never get to that place again but I am mentally ill. Episodes can happen whether you want them to or not, whether you are in therapy and taking your meds properly, it can happen out of the blue. I wouldn’t think about how it would affect others. You don’t think about anything but the desire for peace. At that moment, you only want the pain to stop. Don’t worry. This has made me feel a lot of things but I am not suicidal.

No one should ever have to be in that place where the dark is all you can see. Chris Cornell will live on through his music. He will always be there through his music but the fact that this is it breaks my heart. The fact that he died by suicide breaks my heart. The great ones aren’t supposed to leave, not like this. Yet, many do leave this way. Many lose their battle because they have been strong too long. I don’t believe they truly want to die. They just want to stop hurting, to leave the darkness, to be free. I am sad he lived with depression and I am sad that he is gone. It is time to allow him to rest. My heart doesn’t really matter, however; this hit me hard and that matters.

Forever in my heart you will be. Farwell! I hope there is no anymore pain. I hope the darkness has broken. I hope you are free. Thank you for the music.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Me

I’m sure many of you have noticed that besides posting cat memes I am big on posting memes to my wall regarding mental illness and to fight the stigma related to mental illness. I post articles about various illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. I post these things because I know what it’s like. I can relate to what I post. As many of you know, I live with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type and panic disorder.

Now, I didn’t get this diagnosis that long ago but I believe I have lived with it since I was very young. Part of me liked to believe everybody saw things that weren’t really there and heard voices. The other part of me was terrified that if it wasn’t normal, I would get locked away in an asylum. I chose to not speak of it at all. Not even to my closest friends.

Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type is basically symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. When I’m not on meds, I suffer with tactile, visual and auditory hallucinations. I live with irrational paranoia. Sometimes I cannot sort out my words to speak and I’ll drift from one topic to another in one sentence leaving my audience confused. I’ve also lived with intrusive thoughts and suffer from delusions, These come with a mood disturbance but they also come when I am feeling fine. With medication, I only have to live with the voices. Despite some of the horrible side effects, the personal gain I get from being medicated outweigh the undesired side effects. For years, I would go to a new psychiatrist or psychologist or both seeking help for my depression, then my mania, then for both. I rarely spoke of the psychotic features but was diagnosed with bipolar I with psychotic features. My treatment usually focused on an antidepressant and a mood stabilizer. This was not effective since it was not doing anything for my psychosis but I didn’t want to talk about it. I was afraid of it.

Finally, after years of treatment and therapy, I spoke up to my therapist. Then I spoke up to a psychologist during a psychiatric evaluation. Finally, I found a new place to receive my psychiatric treatment and I told them everything I had been dealing with over the years. My treatment changed. I started all new meds. After a while, I started to feel better. My hallucinations were coming less and less (except for the voices as I stated earlier). I’m not as paranoid, my speech is more organized and I can usually reason my way out of a delusion using logic. I still go see my therapist. I go to my pdoc (prescribing doctor) every couple of months to check in with my meds and get refills. I also started going to group therapy called IOP which stands for intensive out-patient program. Now I when I’m in therapy processing what is going on with me at any given time, I feel free to speak openly about what I experience.

Recovery for me doesn’t mean I’ll ever be cured. There is no cure for mental illnesses. This isn’t simply sadness for a traumatic event in my life or severe mood swings. This is a real illness. By looking at me, you wouldn’t know that I’m hearing voices while you are trying to talk but that is my reality. I must learn to live with it and manage my life accordingly.

For me, recovery means having the coping skills to manage my symptoms. Recovery means taking my meds as they are prescribed each day. Recovery means learning to accept the things I can no longer do. I;m in recovery now. It might not look like recovery to some but I’ve come a long way. I’m not ashamed of it. It’s part of who I am but not all that I am. It’s what makes me quirky. I’m not crazy. I have different challenges than most of you. That doesn’t mean I’m a different person than the one you have always known. I’m still that same person but now, I’m getting treatment for symptoms that have plagued me since I was a child.

I have a mental illness and I am not afraid if anyone knows. Stigma be damned. I have schizoaffective disorder and panic disorder but I’m managing the best I can. You know me. That me you knew is still here. I really hasn’t changed at all. Only now, I have an explanation for some of my quirks and I am learning to live like I never thought I could before.

Familiar Faces

I have strange visual hallucinations sometimes but the ones that confuse me the most are the ones that come when I am out in public.  On certain days, EVERYBODY looks like someone I know.  I have to slow down and look really closely at each face.  Sometimes they morph back right before my eyes to a stranger. I am not saying they look strange.  They just no longer look like someone I know.  Usually by that time, I have already given a hearty “Hello” and get odd stares from the stranger. Other times, I never get close but I think the person can tell I was staring and they simply walk away. 

Then there are the times when I look and distinctly see someone I know.  I get almost giddy with the chance to say hello.  Sometimes people may mistake it for genuine affection and confused because we were never close in a way that should trigger the reaction I have.  But it is such a treat to me when I see something familiar and it is actually there.  I want to hug the person or people.  I am a hugger by nature.  If I am a feeling hypo-manic, I just want to hug them really hard and it isn’t always appropriate.  Then there are the days when I see people and I cannot place it no matter how hard I try.   I wish I had a better filter on my reactions.

If I am on a downswing in my moods, I may avoid eye contact because to be wrong and hug a stranger would be beyond weird for all of us.  I totally doubt my eyes and try not to look around at all.  Once again, it isn’t you.  It is my mind and the tricks it plays on me.  Moods and stressors also play with my hallucinations so I could be totally out of sorts at the moment.  I mean no offense.  I simply am not sure if you are there.

So, if you see me at the store or in the car next to you, come up and say hello.  It is possible I do not mean to stare or ignore you.  I am just not sure if you are really there but would love the chance to say hello and give you a hug.  Take care out there. You never know when I may be staring at you next.

 

 

Schizoaffective me

Diagnosis: Schizoaffective Disorder Bipolar type

Yes, it has a name.  It is a relief and it is terrifying.  It brings tears and smiles- this blessing, this curse.  I cannot help but laugh when I think of how people reacted when I would tell them I have bipolar disorder (my previous diagnosis).  Some would laugh thinking I was joking.  Others would express sympathy as if it is certain death.  My favorite is when they say, “Well, at least it is not schizophrenia.”

Schizoaffective disorder bipolar sub-type is schizophrenia with a side of bipolar or more correctly, it has features that resemble both schizophrenic and has features of bipolar disorder.  I am not hiding it by any means.  I am willing to tell what I know.  With this more accurate diagnosis, I find even more questions and more wary eyes.  I get disbelief from many.  “I don’t remember you having hallucinations,” or “You were not that weird before, when’d you get it?”  Schizoaffective disorder, bipolar sub-type is twice the blessing and twice the curse.  Finally, one that fits all of me and yet scares the hell out of me at the same time.

Hallucinations

Mental imagery is something we all have but the hallucinations are much different.  Growing up I didn’t want to be singled out for this and despite the chastising from the voices, I kept them to myself.  I knew, or thought I knew, that to tell anyone of my hallucinations would mean something very bad for me.  I had stayed up one night and watched part of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” when I was young, perhaps on cable.  I feared that I would end up in a place like that.  So I knew I had to hide.  I had to bury it deep.

So my hallucinations became my secret companions.  Something I occasionally joked about to friends to gauge their reaction, only to have my instinct to hide reconfirmed.  Hide it deep, they sometimes warned, so I did.  Not even my closest friend knew the depths of my struggle within.  She knew I struggled and felt at odds with myself.  She never knew why.  There were times when the arguments my voices had inside my head and just in the other room that I felt like I had an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other, just like a cartoon.  Dueling it out and at times leaving me feeling tortured.  Forever having a companion and still feeling so alone.

At times, I feared them.  I remember my train of thought as to how to not be discovered.  I seemed to take to school well and loved the praise I would receive for a job well done and good marks.  I was only an elementary student.  I didn’t understand my mind.  So, my strategy was to remain a good student.  If I earn good grades, tried to be likable, no one would be the wiser to what was inside my head.  I was very hard on myself when it came to academic performance.  I was not athletic by any means.  I was last picked for any sport we played but in the classroom, I felt like a fish in water.  Plus, having something to concentrate on kept the voices at bay.  I had to do well in academics.  I would lose sleep, my stomach hurt all the time. I dreaded failure and to me, a “B” meant I was sinking in quicksand.  I had to get an “A”.  I wanted to be the best.  Oh God, don’t let them find out about what is going on inside my head.  I had to protect myself and stay on the right side of “normal”.  No one knew so it is not like anyone ever threatened to hospitalize me but it was a real fear that kept me up at night.  The voices also began to tell me it was so.

So I did what I could to feel like everyone else.  I did make the hallucinations my friends when I could.  They often did make things more colorful.  Each day just kept getting brighter and brighter and the colors more vibrant.  I didn’t play with my toys, they played and I joined in the fun.

So now, when people ask me how they never knew about the things inside my head, I simply let them know, I couldn’t.  That would make me one of them.  That might take me away from my family and friends.  I wasn’t bad.  My head was just full of noises.  I did what I thought I had to do.  And now, I am ready to learn to coexist and maintain a more reasonable reality.  Schizoaffective disorder may seem like twice the fight, but it is a part of who I am.  It is not all that I am.

Bunny to be loved

Bunny to be loved.

So today is a day full of anxiety which is not a good place for me to be.  With day to day stressors and overactive hallucinations, generalized anxiety make for a challenging day.  The voices are more prominent and the visual stuff is so close, I can feel its presence.  The others lurk about so close I can feel their breath on my neck.  Usually I just tag them and shoo them away but not on days like today.  It is all too real.

It is amazing how the brain works.  Takes a simple day and turns it into a haunting memory.  No one ever remembers these things like I do.  It is as if they are seeing it in black and white while every scene is bright palette I cannot readily escape.  One of these days, I will never forget.

At the time, I couldn’t have been more than 5 years of age.  It was summertime and my mother’s favorite past time was going garage sale hunting for stuff we probably didn’t need but was fun to look at other people’s discards.  Sometimes she would bring a friend along who had kids.  It would quickly grow boring for most kids but for me, everything spoke.  Some moaned while others giggled at the excitement of being sold to a new home.  The giggles were fun but the moans were aching sadness about being thrown out like garbage.

This particular day of hunting, I had to be bribed.  These sales created such anxiety but I was promised I could pick out ONE item (and only one item) within reason from any of the sales we went to, granted I behaved.  One item had to be worthy of being chosen. I only got one.  I begin to hope for some miracle find like a dollhouse marked super cheap or doll that someone else didn’t want but I would treasure or a really good book.  So, from sale to sale, we ventured.  I saw some toys, but even to me as a child, I felt many were marked too high or seemed too lifeless when I held them.  Those would not do at all.

Then, after I was hot and bored, ready to whine, I saw it.  I was passing a table with some toys when I heard a whimper.   “Please love me.  I’m so scared.  I don’t know why I’m out here.”  I looked through the pile of stuffed animals and found a worn, obviously loved, stuffed bunny.  It was the velveteen rabbit –a real velveteen rabbit only it had not been made real.  It was awfully pitiful to look at but I loved it right away.

“Please help me,” cried the bunny.  I picked up the dear rabbit.  I felt its energy and I knew the rabbit loved me back as it quivered in my arms.  The tag said 10 cents.  WOW!  My mother would surely buy this for me.  How could she refuse?

“Oh no!” my mom exclaimed as I approached her holding the precious bunny.

“But mom, it’s only a dime!” I protested.

“Dear, how about these over here,” said the lady of the sale.  She was pointing to newer less loved toys on another table. “Any one you chose, same price, okay?”

I gripped the bunny tighter. “No,” I cried tears in my eyes.  “I want this one.”  In my head, the bunny needed me and I already loved it dearly.   I needed the bunny too.  Its fur was worn completely off in spots and you could tell where it had been sewn together over and over again.  I had to have it.  The rabbit began to cry harder.  I did too.  My mom was annoyed and the lady looked miserable at the scene.

“You know I didn’t mean to put this old thing out here,” she tried to explain as she reached for the bunny I clutched.

“No,” I whined.  The bunny began to screech as it was taken away from me.  Why can’t anyone else hear the bunny?  Why was I being tortured?  I felt like I would go mad from the sound of the bunny’s cries.  Back and forth the conversation went.  I couldn’t believe how harsh and cruel the world seemed at that moment.  Everyone seemed out to get me, even my mom.  All I wanted to do was continue to love the crying bunny.

Next thing I remember, I was in the backseat of the car driving away, looking back at the lady and her bunny she wouldn’t sell and my mom wouldn’t agree to buy.  I closed my eyes and said a little prayer, “Dear God, please send a fairy to that bunny when it cries tonight.  He will surely be in the trash.  Let the fairy turn him into a real bunny, like in the velveteen rabbit.  Please God.  I hope you hear me. Amen.”

Every night for weeks, I could  hear the bunny crying and I would say my prayer again and again.  I wanted the crying to stop.  I wanted to know the bunny was okay and not in the trash somewhere.  I still tear up today recalling the poor worn out bunny.  I have to believe that the bunny found a special place, became real, and hopped away to live a nice long life.

Be free my little bunny….be free!