Daily Archives: March 1, 2015

Listen and Learn

Filed under: Acceptance, Health, Mental Health, Mindfulness Tagged: learn, listen, listening

Weekend mental puree

(This was written in increments over the last two days, sorry if it’s disjointed but I think doing it this way makes me stay more on point.)

So… a friend sends a text asking if I can get a sitter so they can come over for a bit later and catch up, watch a movie. In my never ending quest to “better myself” by following the advice of professionals rather than deferring to my own self knowledge…
I reply, cool, when. So it’s set for three and I have my kid at my mom’s house and rather than thinking, oooh, this is gonna be fun me time being a normal person interacting with another person…
My anxiety has skyrocketed to the point of stomach issues and crawling itchy skin.
I am just that ill at ease around people. Though it’s much worse when I am in the depressive phase. People actually like manic episodes. Depression…Most people find it too oppressive to endure or get mad when their efforts to cheer you up fail.
It’s too much pressure and stress.
I despise it.
Because even at my best, while it’s not this bad, it’s still there and it still makes life a living hell.
I went so far as undergoing hypnosis to “fix” this anxiety thing, since the consensus seems to be it’s just a personality type as opposed to a genuine problem. (Bullshit.)
I have a serious case of pretzel gut. Everything is twisted and churning and knotted. This is the less sexy aspect of anxiety, when it ceases to be a matter of deep breathing and self pep talks “I will not die, this is just a panic attack”…One cannot ignore the sudden urgent need for a bathroom, repeatedly. It’s humiliating. It’s one thing to have an actual medical condition that causes such issues. But to undergo all the embarrassing tests and scans and exams I did over the years only to be told I am making myself sick with my own anxiety…
And this is for something GOOD.
Half hour before social time.
Rather than dying down, the anxiety has risen. The thing about anxiety and panic are, they don’t care about logic. You can self pep talk til kingdom come and it doesn’t dull it a bit most times. I am a big self bully, I like kicking myself in the ass and telling myself to suck it up. So to try so hard and not be able to kick anxiety’s ass…It’s humiliating.

I had this epiphany when I was driving home from dropping Spook off at mom’s. I wanted to stop somewhere and instead, almost as if hypnotized, I went right past the turn and kept on the route we take from school to home every day. I think sometimes life is but a waking sleepwalk for me. I do what is mental muscle memory as far as routine. It’s automated, like breathing.
So this notion that going through the motions makes one high functioning is a crock.
I guess since every other aspect of my brain is off the rails, that lizard part makes sure I at least maintain the basics. Though that too hinges on my mood cycle. Mania makes you so high functioning, you’re ten feet tall and bulletproof and could sprout wings and fly if you wanted. (In your own mind.)
Depression saps you of every ounce of energy, motivation, and clarity so even zombie esque shambling is suspect.

Ever get stranded somewhere (in our case, major snow and bad roads) and find yourself so ill at ease at another’s home, you can barely sleep?
It was a friend’s place, we’ve stayed there before, but for some reason…I felt like I was stranded at sea. I was up every ten minutes because they keep the place silent as a tomb and I am so used to falling asleep to rain sounds or TV shows. Every step I took made the floor creak, and I got nervous about waking my friend. I was sharing an unfamiliar bed with my kid who at one point got so twisted her foot landed in my mouth. Literally. My stomach was in knots. My anxiety was off the charts. The silence was the worst part. Oh I have come to crave soft background noise, it seems to ease the noise in my head with the racing thoughts.
Silence…leaves me and my mental noise alone together. Ugh.
In spite of four inches of snow, we were up and back home by 8 a.m. I trudged through the snow, scooped the car out, and once ensconced in my safe bubble again…
Order was restored. As much order as can be established with my screwed up mind.

On a weird but possibly cool note…I ran into a guy I used to work with, haven’t seen him in 14 years. He accosted me in a parking lot and hugged me, remembered my name. I remembered him. He has pretty eyes, I always remember the eyes. That and we used to talk heavy metal on our smoke breaks. He’s like ten years younger than me, but he was always so cool to me, I thought he was a nice kid. (Did I mention the pretty eyes?)
Anyway, he told me has a daughter who’s a year older than mine, indicated he was single and interested in me, and maybe we should arrange a playdate for our kids. I gave him my number, not really expecting follow through. He wanted a ride and well, I’m not evil enough to make anyone (aside from the donor) walk home in deep blowing snow.
But when we got back this morning, there was an unfamiliar number on my caller ID. I actually blew it off, trashed it. Then went back and listened to it. He actually called to give me his number.
Yeah, I’m not sure what to do with that.
I always did like him, though. I struggled with that job a lot and he was always willing to help me out, even if I just needed to walk away for a minute to sort my head out.
I remember kind acts like that.
So who knows.
If nothing else., my kid gets a new playmate and I get a friend to talk metal and chainsmoke with.
Provided I can keep the crazy hidden.
With the current depression and anxiety and the whole nil desire to socialize…
It doesn’t look good.
But at least I am trying.

Today…I am doing fuck all but housework. Brain reboot. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks, so maybe I will finally drain out completely and recuperate with much needed rest. In my own bed, in my cold trailer, but able to breathe an with my beloved background noise.
And yes, I am aware how bizarre this all makes me seem.
Back in the day it was called eccentricty.
Now it’s called being mental.
Odd that.
I think my quirks are my best qualities.
I can do without the mental imbalances though.
Who knows….maybe I will bundle us up and go outside, let her build a snowman.
Or a snow penis, as my nephew and his friends made. They live by a school and a church. I guess complaints were immediate.
Funny as hell.
Somehow I wonder if they had been snow breasts if that would have been less offensive. Society has a bug up its ass about showing a penis on tv and such. But tits…are everywhere.

I wish I had artistic ability.
I’d totally build a snow Dalek.
Ice -Terminate.

Why Do They Do This? (And Why Do We Allow It?)

The big story last week for those of us with mental disorders was this one:


For those of you who haven’t read it or seen the video, here’s the gist. A woman, Ms. Rios, was declared mentally incompetent at a hearing for a minor offense and not allowed to say goodbye to her mother. She wanted to sit on a bench and cry for a bit. When she did not go promptly with the officer, he dragged her through the courthouse by her shackled feet. A video was taken on a cellphone camera by a lawyer who happened to be present, but had nothing t do with Ms. Rios’s case. If you watch the video clip you can see and hear her distress.

As the headline says, this was barbaric.

But there’s lots neither the headline nor the story says. I have questions.

What is the woman’s mental illness? Or why is she mentally incompetent? The stories vary, usually calling her “mentally ill,” which is shorter for the headline writers, but so far I have seen nothing more specific. One could get the impression that in the mind of the media – and therefore their readers – that the two terms mean the same thing. Was she medicated or unmedicated or off her prescribed meds? Does she have a developmental disability? An autism spectrum disorder? An emotional or behavioral disorder? We don’t know. But does the label make her automatically suspected of potential violence? The woman did not behave like an animal even when she was treated like one.

I think we all know people who have mental disorders but are still mentally competent to conduct their own affairs, up to and including court proceedings. In fact, I know you know one – me. But who among us, or among the sanest and most stable of the general public, wouldn’t have needed to sit on a bench and cry before going to wherever the officer thought we should go? Who wouldn’t yell and protest and try to hold on to a table if we were dragged anywhere by our shackled feet?

Why is the officer’s action called “barbaric”? I’m not saying it wasn’t barbaric. But how was it more barbaric than other things routinely done to the incarcerated mentally ill (or incompetent)? Could it be because the officer’s actions were caught on tape? How many everyday barbaric actions aren’t? And putting aside simple human compassion (which he did), didn’t the officer’s actions create a larger, potentially more dangerous disturbance?

Why did the other officers present do nothing? You can see them on the video. They are spectators. No one says, “Hey, do you have to do that?” or “Give her a minute to calm down” or “Here, let me take care of this” or “You know, there are other ways to handle this” or even “Are you sure you want to do that with the camera rolling?” Nothing. Nada. Zippety. Doo-dah.

Why weren’t the officers and other courthouse personnel trained to handle situations like that? They obviously happen occasionally. Officers are (supposedly) trained to handle situations involving violent felons (which Ms. Rios wasn’t), domestic violence, and how to restrain suspects properly. Some even get sensitivity training on race, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Where’s the training for interacting with the mentally ill (or mentally incompetent)? For de-escalating a situation instead of throwing gas on the fire? How about anger management before incidents like this one instead of after? Shouldn’t every law enforcement official be able to control or channel his or her anger and not take it out on the public?

Why the hell aren’t police officers required to wear body cameras – and have someone whose job it is to, oh, I don’t know, review them occasionally? Certainly when there’s been a complaint, but spot checks might also do some good. Why are civilians subject to increasing surveillance, while law enforcement personnel – who are also civilians, by the way – perform their jobs with minimal oversight.

And why is the Golden Rule suspended when the “others” have a mental disturbance? I’d really like to know.


I am cross-posting a slightly altered version of this essay to Et Cetera, etc., my general purpose blog (janetcobur.wordpress.com).

Filed under: Mental Health Tagged: media and mental illness, mental illness, mental illness in the news, mental incompetence, news stories, police and the mentally ill, public perception, stigma

Farewell February

farewell febraury I can’t believe another month has gone by so quickly. Even thought it was a short month, it still whizzed past by my drug ridden brain pretty fast.

I was very faithful to my spreadsheet this month and kept good records of how I did. Here is my report:

EXERCISE, FOOD, DIET, AND ALL THAT: I did a bit better on exercise. I managed 8 days out of 28. Last month it was only 6. Not exactly stellar, but hey. I’ve gotten a few more supports in place for exercise and I hope to do better in March. I drank about three diet shakes per day. I need to get four in. There’s another place to improve next month. I start out great in the mornings and fizz as the day goes on.

I did MUCH better on drinking my 64 oz. of water every day. I decided I could NOT have any diet Pepsi or iced tea until I had had all of my water. Of course, usually by the time I drank all that water I didn’t want anything else.

I cooked dinner all but one day in February. We did have a few days where people were gone and I didn’t have to cook, but otherwise I had a dinner ready. I’ve been doing great at this.

My weight doctor has added in a new feature to my diet: a couple of snacks a day. So my menu looks like this: 4 shakes per day, 2 snacks per day, 64 oz of water, a reasonable serving of the dinner I cook. I am going to add the snacks on the spreadsheet to make sure I am getting those in because…..

I AM EATING OTHER STUFF! There were only four days this month where I managed to stay on the above food plan. I call this “other food” on my spreadsheet and I have a happy little “x” for almost every day. You name it, I have eaten it. The good news is, when I went to weigh-in this month, I only gained 1 pound. I know that’s not good, but it could have been worse. (I hate psych meds!)

Enough on the food. I only cancelled something 7 days this month. That’s an improvement over 11 last month. This is a big issue for me so I am pleased it’s getting better. I did my devotional all but 7 days this month. Just got lazy on that.

SHOWERING is better! I shower when I need to go somewhere. I plan ahead and shower the night before if I have to go somewhere early. I still will often get my husband to go with me and chat while I shower for moral support but I have done it alone.

SLEEPING UPSTAIRS: This has to get better as my neck is aching from the couch. I just need to get up at ten and go upstairs to bed. Period. No falling asleep on the couch.

BEST FRIEND: Don’t forget that she lives out of state. We texted 10 days in February. We talked on the phone 3 times. I’d like to see us talk a little more, but I was glad that not many days went by this month where we didn’t make contact. We still don’t have any firm plans to see each other, although there is some talk of meeting up in June. If we do I think that would be a whole year since we saw each other. I think that is too long for best friends.

CHURCH was rough this month. We only got there one Sunday. But we did collect toys at garage sales for a missions project and took in food. One Sunday we missed cause of that rock show and the other two I just didn’t feel like it. Which is too bad cause I like church.

SEEING FRIENDS: This was okay this month. I saw three girlfriends socially, went out with two couple friends, and went to a family dinner. I think that is getting out enough.

I wouldn’t mind making a new friend or two to go to movies or out with. I have plenty of friends but most work and are pretty busy so I see them maybe once every couple of months. Which isn’t bad. But with me being home, I could use another friend who doesn’t work. I looked over my friend list four times and am caught up with everyone on there.

I went to my bipolar support group twice and missed twice. I’m trying to combine that trip with the gym and treadmill so I need to improve on that.

I went to my women’s support group three times out of four. That is pretty good. They all miss one here and there also.

I went somewhere my husband wanted to go at least four times.

I saw my psychiatrist and psychologist once each. I got my massage for mental health. (LOL). I weighed-in at the weight doctor.

There are a few minor changes coming up on the March spreadsheet.

I’m going to start monitoring my efforts on the blog to make sure I am staying on my schedule.  I want to make sure I am not spending too much or too little time on the blog. If I can stay with this, I can see how it goes, and if I need to make changes.

I also gave up the book club. The purpose of that was to get me reading. I have since become hooked on audiobooks. I plan on jotting down the titles I have listened to each month. I also plan on weighing myself once a week at home. Finally, I am going to give myself credit for seeing “random” docs. This is anyone but mental health people. In March, I need to see the dentist and get a bone density scan. So I will earn points for getting out for that.

I think it was a good month with lots of room for improvement. At least I really know where I am going wrong and where it is going okay. I can do some of these little changes.

Thanks for listening to the update. It’s like giving my report card to my parents!


I’ve been getting up with the sun and on to the beach and into the sea every morning. I’ve done a bunch of chores. I’ve spent time with friends. I’ve eaten properly, drunk plenty of water and taken my meds on time. I’ve carried on a bit with the embroidery I’m working on. I’ve done some work.

Med changes:
Lamotrigine: switched from Epitec to dyna Lamotrigine, 300mg.
Serdep: no change, 100mg.
Wellbutrin: no change 150mg.
Methylphenidate: started yesterday morning, 10mg.

Heartburn, rash, ears feel like changes in altitude, heartburn (those are like previous Epitec side effects – could they be caused by switching generics?). I usually deal with them fine.
Intense and stabby muscle spasm over right side of ribs (stress again?)
Panic attack – the shaky, blurred vision, aches, gutsache and terror version. No obvious trigger or cause.
Messing up reading and writing words by saying the wrong word and seeing the wrong word clearly.
Tearful to the point where not crying is hurting my throat. Too terrified to cry.
Bouts of extreme irritation.

Idk what to do or think. I already mailed my psychiatrist.

I posted to my close friends list on fb that I feel in need of more than ‘like’ getting clicked on stuff – and four people responded with heart emoticons. I logged out. Nobody intends anything but good, but I can’t handle it.

The Right to Fight Stigma

So a few weeks ago I came across an online article that talked about ways to reduce mental illness stigma. Since I’m doing a PhD in the subject I’m fairly interested in what is being suggested and advertised within the community, so I sat down and had a read.

It was a well written and informative article, unfortunately I closed the window and haven’t been able to find it again – or I would have linked it to this post. Anyway, I was pretty pleased that this issue was being publicised. But then, just towards the end it started talking about how the community should be listening to ALL people with a mental illness, not just the “few high functioning few” with potentially less severe diagnoses. That this is kind of “false advertising”. That although its great that highly successful celebrities and athletes “come out” and talk about their struggles with mental health, there are many people within the community who are unwell and unable to function to this level. That the community should be aware of the severity of mental illness, and that being  diagnosed with a mental illness and able to function at a high level iis not necessarily the norm. They likened it to someone with Stage 1 cancer advocating for awareness instead of those with Stage 4 cancer. Although it was never specifically vocalised, it kind of felt like the author was saying “if you are high functioning you don’t have a REAL mental illness, and you are stealing all the attention away from people who need it”

I get what was trying to be said. And I do agree that high functioning is not necessarily the norm, and that all facets of mental illness need to be respected and recognised. I also get what the author was trying to say about celebrities and such sharing their personal stories. That there is a risk of people thinking “well, SHE has bipolar disorder and seems to be doing ok. So why can’t YOU? Mind over matter. Get your act together.” I get it.

But it kind of bothered me as well. You see, doctors have told many times that I am high functioning. So I suddenly felt uncertain. Do I have ANY right to be blogging about this? To be researching this? To be fighting for this? Is this what people think of me? Am I  undermining the severity of bipolar disorder? I felt unsure, and this is partly why I haven’t blogged recently. After reading this, everything I wrote felt like it was coming out wrong.

Then I thought; “Rachael, you have been diagnosed with a mental illness. Your experience is just as valid as anyone else’s. You wish to devote your life to reducing mental illness stigma, spend an extra four years in school then enter a poorly paid line of work so you can help other people. What exactly have you done wrong?”

So today, I would like to respectfully disagree with the above argument; for four main reasons.

1) When I have been extremely unwell, when I am “low functioning”, so to speak, fighting to reduce stigma is not my priority. Getting through another day is my priority. Getting myself out of hospital is my priority. I’m not equipped to mobilise, there is no way I could have undertaken a PhD. I couldn’t even concentrate long enough to watch ten minutes of daytime TV. I gave up reading. I could barely follow conversation. Hell, after ECT I practically forgot who I even was. When I am in the midst of an episode I am in pure survival mode and quite frankly I don’t give a shit about stigma reduction.

Now that I am in a better place I feel it is my responsibility to fight for what is needed, and for the people who – like I used to be – are not able to advocate, to raise awareness and to share their stories. The people who are struggling every day. The people whose illness has taken away their voice, whether temporarily or permanently.

When I was heavily pregnant I couldn’t lift heavy objects, so people assisted me. After my son was born I was able to lift once more. This is the same, I want to give a hand to the people who can’t lift for themselves at this point in time, and even those who may never want or be able to. And I don’t see anything wrong with that.

2) Isn’t any action to fight this fight good? One of the major problems with stigma reduction is that people are fearful of mental illness. It is misunderstood and there is a strong belief that mental illness leads to violence. People who commit obsence acts of violence are often proclaimed to be mentally ill. The media continually exacerbates this fear with blockbuster films like “Fatal Attraction” and “The Shining”, which , although fantastic films in their own right,  perpetuate this belief that us mentally ill folk are dangerous.

I believe that one of the most helpful things we can do to try and reduce stigma is to talk about it. To share our stories. To make this a less taboo subject. Mental illness is incredibly common, and the more people talk about it, the less of “freakish” it becomes. The more we can show that all sort of people can be diagnosed with mental illness – not just mass murderers and terrorists – the more we can fight stereotype of mental illness and violence. Whether it is the average joe on the street or a Hollywood A lister sharing their experience – isn’t this what is required? And since celebrities generally have a wealth of social power…wouldn’t this be a positive thing?

2) Is the severity of my disorder dependant on my level of functioning? And if so, how do I establish how “severe” my mental illness is? I’m the girl with the proverbial curl in the middle of my forehead. “When I am good, it is very very good, and when it is bad it is horrid”.

I’m considerably lucky. And I realise that. I can go for months or years without a sniff of a problem. I can educate myself to a high level. Work. Maintain my marriage and relationships. Parent. Stay out of hospital.

But – when I DO have an episode it is catastrophic. I don’t just go to bed for a few weeks. I end up in hospital for months. I’m psychotic. I’m forcibly injected. Involuntarily detained. I’m not even allowed to wear my own clothes. I’m told I am treatment resistant, a “difficult case”, and one of the worst that the doctors have ever had to treat.

If you met me without knowing my past, and I told you my diagnosis, you would probably assume I had a very mild version of bipolar disorder, or perhaps that I had been misdiagnosed. If you read my medical history you may think otherwise. I’m still not sure of the severity of my illness, and I don’t care to speculate – it is what it is. But, my point is,  unless you know all the facts, how can you judge the extent of someones illness? And really, whatever the supposed “severity”, mental illness is mental illness. Those with Stage 1 cancer also need to endure months of treatment, sickness, fear, and stress. Their experience is still valid, as is the experience of those with so called “less severe” mental illness.

3) Being high functioning isn’t always easy. People don’t always believe us when we say we are unwell. I have been denied treatment many times by numerous doctors, hospitals and nurses because I appeared to be functioning well despite my illness. By the time I was (grudgingly) offered help it was an emergency situation. Think about it; how many so called high functioning celebrities or public figures or people who seemingly “have it all” end up attempting or committing suicide.  This is the kind of mistake that costs lives

At the end of the day, my view is that stigma reduction is a major issue, and that anyone who feels able to fight should fight. I feel like the article, in a sense, was discriminating between experiences of mental illness, which is basically what we are trying to avoid in the first place. Diagnoses, status, functioning aside, we all have been touched by darkness. We all want the same thing; equality. So I will continue to research, to blog, and to share my story.

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