Guest Post: Sons with Schizophrenia: A Tale of Three Mothers

tttThree mothers with so much in common, we could form a club. Each raised one son and one daughter, through adolescence into young adulthood. Each loves her children with all her heart. And, sadly, each of our brilliant, happy, sweet sons began to change in their mid-teens, and were eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. We have each written about our experiences, shared our stories so they might help others.

But our stories have taken three very different turns. Today, one of these mothers mourns the death of her son, who passed away in “individual housing” earlier this year. Another of us sits stoically in a courtroom as her son is being tried for shooting moviegoers in Aurora, Colorado. And I, the lucky one, get to hug my son as he heads off to work, in his car, filled with gas that he paid for himself. For today, yes, I am the lucky one.

My heart goes out to the other mothers, even though I have never met them. I only know them through their writings, but I feel their struggles, their pain, their guilt, their love. Anyone who lives with mental illness in their family knows that we live life with crossed fingers, and we fight with all our might to make the right decisions.

And it is far from easy.

me and zac 2013 (1)Laura Pogliano called herself “lucky”, too, sharing her story The Fortunate Mother: Caring for a Son with Schizophrenia in USA Today in 2014. In it, she “feels lucky that she’s been able to hang in, lucky that Zac is not living in jail or under a bridge…even though ‘Twice a year, right in front of me, he disappears into psychosis, and there is very little left of who he is. Then medicine resurrects him for a few months, I have much of my child back, then he dies again.’ “

 

Later, she struggled with whether or not to let Zac get his own apartment.  In a USA Today follow-up story, Laura says Zac had moved into an apartment near her home, and that she had tried to “protect her son without being overprotective.” Zac stopped communicating with her for a few days, and she had the same reaction as many parents who strive to allow independence with limits: “I asked myself, ‘How much do I baby him? If he’s with some friends, I don’t want to butt in.’ ”

Who hasn’t been there? I know I have. That balance between letting go and stepping in is a staple of parenting. In Laura’s case, the results were tragic: Zac was found dead in his apartment in January 2015. Her “luck” had run out…but the lack of respect and services for her family situation is certainly more to blame than luck.

Laura is devoting much of her time now to honoring Zac’s life with her advocacy. This did not have to happen. See her powerful piece called My Mentally Ill Son versus Your Son With Another Type of Illness.

 

Holmes Young Family
Young Holmes Family

Arlene Holmes is the mother of a man who is hated by many. Her son, “Jim” is known to us

Holmes Family Today
Holmes Family Today

for only one thing : the day he opened fire in a crowded movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and wounding 70. James Eagan Holmes, before that day, was a neuroscience student, a camp counselor, a church goer, a class leader, a big brother. He was – and is – somebody’s son. And he had needed help for a long time.
I don’t profess to understand how Arlene Holmes feels. I can only imagine the guilt, regret, isolation and grief – and surmise that these feelings began long before the “Batman incident”, when her son first began to show early behavior changes (including a suicide attempt at age 11). What I imagine to be the feelings behind the stoic expression of Arlene and her husband as they sit near their son during his trial comes from her self-published book of poetry When the Focus Shifts, her reaction to the shootings, and the arrest and trial of her son. She states that the proceeds are to be donated to medical and mental health services.

Is she a “monster”, who “raised a monster”? I doubt it. I suspect that she, like me and Laura, was just a woefully underprepared and unsupported parent.

She writes:

(01-08-2013) I can never forgive myself for not knowing that this would happen.Focus Shift

How could I have known?…

Forgive yourself…And then forgive the people who hate your guts and want you dead.

(02-01-2013) I had a good kid who never harmed anyone.

That changed; his brain changed.

(03-22-2013)

A memory of when he was in high school…we are hiking up a hill

I can’t keep up.

Jim stays behind to make sure I am okay.

Isn’t that empathy?

Arlene writes about sitting in Jim’s untouched childhood room, “because I need the memories and tangible evidence that he was a good person.” Could this have been me? Could it have been Laura?  Three mothers – three sons with schizophrenia.

What made the difference?

Is it love? I highly doubt it. These boys were all loved.

Is it the lack of family education and support? Shortage of attention paid to early diagnosis and treatment? Is it the fear of diagnosis, fed by stigma, fear, and paucity of realistic access to treatment that must be consistent to be effective? Answer: sadly, all of the above.

Or is it also just the randomness of things, the moments we missed when we look back and say, “I wish I had known?” To this I say: you can never know. You can guess. You can educate yourself. You can take whatever actions seem right, do what the mental health system “allows” you to do. But nothing is ever that clear where mental illness is concerned.

“Show me a prison, show me a jail
Show me a prisoner, man, whose face is growin’ pale
And I’ll show you a young man with many reasons why
And there but for fortune, may go you or I”
– Phil Ochs

 

Is it fortune? Really? According to a 2006 study, “An estimated 56 percent of state prisoners, 45 percent of federal prisoners, and 64 percent of jail inmates have a mental health problem.” So can we also blame a mental health system that is underfunded, shortsighted, and mired in legalities that prevent people with mental illness – and their concerned families – from getting the help they need?

I’m talking with George, a social worker who works in the prison system, about this. He says that, yes, many of his prison clients have schizophrenia. We agree that so many of those with unmanaged mental illness wind up instead either homeless or in prison, and that they’d have been better served by receiving treatment, as early and consistently as possible – but then George shocks me with his next statement. He says:

Of course, the majority of my guys are imprisoned for killing their parents.

This stops me in my tracks, knocks me right off my soapbox. There but for fortune…?

I have often imagined how hard it would be if Ben were incarcerated (which almost happened), institutionalized (which also almost happened), or homeless (which did happen, in the past) – but the thought that he could kill us, or anyone, in the midst of psychosis has never crossed my mind. Ben is a gentle and sweet soul – has been since birth – and I’ve always felt that this has been our saving grace. But did Arlene Holmes think her son incapable of violence? Did Laura Pogliano think she was through the worst of it when Zac admitted he had schizophrenia and agreed to be interviewed by USA Today?

The truth is, I have no idea what Ben’s voices tell him when he is untreated . He has never admitted to even hearing voices, much less the words he hears, but if he stops taking medication the fact that he responds to this internal world is undeniably clear. We only hear and see Ben’s side of the “conversation” – he gestures, grimaces, talks – but what do the voices say to him? I hope we never know, We’ve made it our job to make sure he stays in treatment, keeping that internal world quiet enough so Ben can work, live and love in the external world. We have no “legal” right to do this, of course; it’s simply a house rule, and Ben follows it. We have set limits in our home and we enforce them. So far, so good.

These days, Ben has a job he excels at, a social life with friends and family, and interests like hiking, bowling, and college classes. He takes his medication twice daily, which we supervise. Not my favorite moments in the day, but worth it. Every day he asks for a “Mom hug”, and tells me he loves me. Lucky family. We know it. But we live life with crossed fingers. All we can do is our best to make sure we respect his illness enough to keep it managed.  And the rest…is out of our hands.

There but for fortune….and one hell of a continuous fight. For treatment, for research, for respect for the needs of those with mental illness, the right to have treatment and the right to a future.

Three mothers.

Three stories.

Three outcomes.

Countless other families that could have been saved – including those of who have lost loved ones – with early diagnosis, stigma-free treatment, understanding, better research, mental health support services.

When will we ever learn?tttttt

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Guest Post: Stars and Darkness- You Will be Found

“Even when the dark comes crashing through. When you need someone to carry you. When you’re broken on the ground. You will be found.” – from “Dear Evan Hansen”

darknessBattling treatment resistant depression for 25 years you’d think I’d be a well seasoned advocate for mental health issues. I don’t think I was one or even am one right now but others tell me different.

I came out about my depression a handful of years after the Prozac phenomena was introduced to the world. I told my mother and eventually my friends, was placed in therapy and on meds. I regained myself – well, better than myself. My doctor said I was “back on track” after a good 3 months and took me off my med. Then, the world went dark and have never achieved such remission ever since.

So, I advocated for myself – even before I knew what advocacy was. I found the doctors, the therapists, researched the meds and methods. Informed my friends and family and tried my best to educate them. I fought off jokes about being “a walking pharmacy,” and others. I stood up for myself even when I barely had the energy to get out of bed. I did try and I still do.

Eventually I got involved with support groups and when those ended I found social media. Facebook. I put it out there that I felt like crap. I put it out there that I was suffering. I put it out there I was isolating, in pain, hurting, lonely. I found somewhere where even through my pain I could teach people – new friends, old friends – what it was like to live with chronic depression. And I was found. I was found by old classmates, new friends, old friends who confided in me about their struggles – their pain.

But the depression tried to ward off any triumphs of advocacy because of course that’s partly what depression does to you: it lies. I currently live in a small town. Not much opportunity to advocate. But I found on social media I could reach people everywhere – and I have and continue to do so. Sure, some left, unfollowed, unfriended – just like before social media. But many more stayed and listened and extended hand here and there. I’m still working on my advocacy and I don’t intend to give up because I need to learn more too – not just about myself but about those who found me so that I can extend a hand when the time comes and pay it forward. Advocate for yourself and for others and you will be found.  ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF AND FOR OTHERS!

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Why Bipolar Disorder Can’t be Blamed for Everything

fault picThose of us who have bipolar disorder or other mental illnesses are often haunted by things like, “Have you taken your meds?” or “Do you think that because you are doing crazy things you should be admitted into the hospital?” or “Should you be doing that in your state?” or “Don’t think you can do that because with your illness it is impossible.”  I think you get the idea and probably have a lot more to add.

Yes- These things bother me and most likely a lot of you. However, at the same time, and you will probably not like this: Just because you have bipolar disorder doesn’t give you the right to do things without consequences.

What I mean by that is this:  If you are manic and have bad judgement or hurt someone because you are more free in what you say or do, does not mean you get a pass.  Yes- Some of your loved ones will forgive you and some may even chalk it up to you having a mental illness and accept you. However, this does not mean you should take this chance. Another thing to consider is that you could have embarrassed them. Please point out to them that you are the one who did the things that embarrassed them and although they could be embarrassed, they should explain to the others that you have a mental illness. By doing this, it can open up the eyes of so many people who are ignorant when it comes to severe mental illness.

Do everything you can not to get manic so that you don’t do things you regret.  If you do do things when you are manic, remember that it is important to apologize. Even if you know the loved one has forgiven you and will forgive you the next time too, they will not forget.  They will also not forget that you apologized. This will help them remember that you are doing everything in your power to stay healthy and do know that you remember doing those things and appreciate them forgiving you.

Yes- Bipolar disorder can be blamed for having a hard time in life. It can pose many challenges.  It can also be the cause of a lot of heartache, lost friendships, and a lot of sleepless nights reflecting on the things you have done.  However, please don’t accept a free pass when you do something while you are sick.  There are things you can do to avoid doing things you regret and definitely do things afterwards when you have hurt others or done embarrassing things.

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Is Bipolar Disorder for Everyone?

people picI have two main points to make.

The first one is the one that aggravates me and I will tell you that sometimes it upsets people when I talk about it.  I think bipolar disorder is way over diagnosed and glamorized.   When I hear people have bipolar disorder and they once in awhile experience mild depression, I feel that the doctor should not have called it that.  There is bipolar 1 and bipolar 2, but I am not talking about that. I am talking about how there is a difference between someone who gets depressed occasionally and someone who has extreme mood swings where the manias land them in psychiatric wards and the depressions are so low that they often end up in suicide.

What goes along with this and I think diminishes what people with bipolar disorder really endure is how famous people think it is “cool” or say it to draw attention to themselves by saying they have bipolar disorder.  I am not saying that some of them really do have bipolar disorder. I am talking about those who are clueless as to what it really means to have bipolar disorder and basically just say they have it so their names end up in search engines online.  I think this is sad and they should be ashamed of themselves. If they have been actually diagnosed then like I already stated, so many of them probably should not have been.

The second point I want to make in this blog is:  Bipolar Disorder is NOT for everyone.  It takes a special, strong person to live the life of someone with bipolar disorder.  It takes endurance and passion.  It takes a willingness (not chosen) to live a hellish life.  The stigma of the serious mental illness of bipolar disorder makes it even harder and those who are open and honest about it are brave!

50% of those with bipolar disorder have attempted suicide.  Ref1 Bipolar disorder results in 9.2 years reduction in expected life span, and as many as one in five patients with bipolar disorder completes suicide. Ref2   This goes to prove that living life with bipolar disorder is not easy. It is not only difficult, but oftentimes leads to death.

I hope that if you are struggling with bipolar disorder, that you get the help that you need and don’t end up being a statistic. I also hope that you know that you are brave, courageous, strong, and deserve a pat on the back for living this long with this horrible disease.  If you think you might have bipolar disorder, please see a doctor as soon as possible and get the help that you need so that you don’t end up being taken from this world too soon.

So, Is Bipolar Disorder for everyone? NOPE

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I have Bipolar Disorder: Am I a Failure?

failureIt is easy to think of yourself as a failure when you are extremely depressed. You get into a slump where you think you are nothing, but your illness. You live secluded from the rest of the world and dig yourself deeper into a hole where you feel worthless and unworthy of happiness. Because of these dark feelings, you are going to feel like a failure. You will feel like you have let your family and friends down and in reality you have let yourself down.

When you are manic, it is sometimes the opposite:  You feel like you are wonderful and can do no wrong. You are positive and think of yourself as successful even if in reality you are not. What are considered delusions of grandeur can make you feel like you are special and nothing can knock you down.

However, when it comes to my manic episodes, I fear them.  The repercussions are horrific and I almost would rather stay depressed rather than get manic and lose friends, spend money I don’t have, do crazy things I later regret, and basically end up in a spiral where even though things look wonderful, in reality they are only temporary.

When I get manic, I feel like a failure. The medicines very rarely work lately.  Therefore, I am left with the hopeless feeling that things are going to spiral out of control quickly and there is nothing I can do.  Before getting manic there are things I should be doing to take care of myself and because I don’t because I am so depressed, when I get manic those things are not set in place. For example, I should be exercising, eating right, taking time to relax, setting time each day to do something alone and enjoyable.  It is easy to not do those things while in the funk of depression. However, if they were already in my routine, it would be easier to keep them going when I enter a manic episode.  Chances are too that if I was doing them all along, they might even prevent me from getting manic in the first place.

Yes- I can feel like a failure when I am depressed or manic. However, all in all, I think people who battle bipolar disorder should not be viewed as failures. We are up against a lot and it is not an easy battle to endure day after day.  So, if you are thinking that you are a failure, you are far from it.  You are strong and can fight these battles.  You can do it. Think positive! Stay true to yourself and know that even when you go through these cycles, you are a person just like anyone else. You make mistakes and that is okay. Learn to accept yourself with all your faults. Take it one step at a time and learn from each episode.  Learn something that will help you through the next manic or depressed phase.

In answer to the question, “I have bipolar disorder, am I a failure?”  I would have to say…

You are NOT a failure. You might feel like you are a failure sometimes, but you are a strong person who has endured a lot and will continue to fight an awful disease and that makes you a winner in my book.

 

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Beware I am Manic

bewareAs part of my action plan, I always let the people who care about me know that I am seeing red flags and am concerned that I am getting manic.  This way they can be on the lookout and know that I know that I am in trouble.

Letting others know is important, but that is not the reason I am writing this blog.  It is more of a warning to myself.  These are things I need to remember when I am hypomanic in order not to do things I will regret later and to stay on track so as not to get into a full blown manic episode.

Here is a list of things I try to do when I know I am in the danger zone.

Get enough sleep. I tend to have a lot of energy and sleep does not seem to be needed as much, but it is important to keep a regular sleep schedule as much as I can. I try to start unwinding around 10 and try to be in bed by 11. I don’t always go to sleep, but I need to at least rest my eyes and brain. I will make myself lay there for at least two hours.  If I can’t get to sleep, I take a medicine that helps me sleep. Oftentimes, I don’t sleep very long, but that is to be expected and I have learned to not panic.  As long as I go to sleep, get at least 3-6 hours of sleep and am functional the next day without doing manic-like things, I settle for that.  When I do wake up, I try and stay in bed and read or watch tv or do something that does not stimulate my brain.  When that does not work, and it often does not, I get up and start my day.  I take advantage of all the excess energy that comes along with the mania.

Eating right is important.  It is easy to forget to eat when I am manic.  Since I am overweight, it is tempting to not eat as I just don’t feel hungry. However, this is dangerous.  Making sure you eat several small meals a day is important. Eat healthy as since you don’t have much of an appetite, that will help me lose weight in itself. It helps to prepare meals ahead of time as then when you get busy doing all the things you manage to fit into a day, you can just grab and go.

Exercising is so important as it helps to burn off all the excess energy you have. It also helps to focus your mind on things rather than letting it wander. It is easy to get side tracked when you are manic so if you exercise and make yourself do it for at least 30 minutes it is a time that you can reflect on things you need to do and prioritize.  Exercise is good for anybody at anytime, but when you are manic, it is really important as it grounds you.

Pacing yourself is important.  Setting goals for the day and week by making lists helps with this.  Since oftentimes I am coming out of a deep depression and have not done much in months, it is easy to just go all out and get as much as I can do before I get depressed again. This, I have learned, is the wrong way to do it.  Finish one project before going onto the next.

Think positive. This too shall pass. Yes-there are benefits to being manic, but for me it usually ends up badly if I don’t take care of myself.  I have learned over the years to do everything I can to stay out of a manic episode. I, unlike many people with bipolar disorder, and it sounds strange, but I would rather be depressed (and I get severely depressed), than manic. This is because I tend to do a lot of things that I regret when I am manic.

Remember I am not perfect.  I will make mistakes and screw up.  I will do things that I regret later. I will say things to my loved ones that I wish I could take back.  I will most likely lose friendships. However, if I do the best I can do when faced with mania, that is all I can do.

Journaling might help as it focuses your brain on what your goals are and prioritizes what you should do rather than start a lot of projects all at once. It also can be relaxing and this helps when you are lying in bed and can’t sleep.

Do things that help you relax.  Walking, taking a bath, listening to soft music, going out with friends, getting fresh air, or whatever else makes you chill out and enjoy the day. This can really be hard when manic, but it is probably one of the most important.

Take it one day at a time. Things will get better.

Make an appointment to see your doctor or therapist as they may have ideas of what you can do differently.

Take your meds regularly. They may need to be adjusted, but only do so after talking to your psychiatrist.

Take steps that prevent you from spending money. Some people do drastic things like handing over their credit cards to a loved one for safe keeping. If you really want to buy something, put it off if you can until you know that you have come down from your manic high.

Drive safely. If you don’t think you should be behind a wheel, then don’t. Arrange for a friend or loved one to get you places. If you can’t, then it won’t kill you to stay home. It is better than the alternative of hurting yourself or someone else. If you do decide to drive, be very careful and obey the speed limits and take extra precaution.  While manic, you will take risks you normally wouldn’t take so keep that in mind.

All of these things have helped me over the years. They are not full proof, but hopefully gave you some good ideas. I would love to hear from you if you have some other ideas, contact me on my Facebook page, Bipolar Bandit.

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What Happens after you have been Diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

dxsFor some people, it is a relief when they find out that there is a name for something they have been enduring sometimes for years.  Unfortunately, due to the stigma attached to mental illness, some people feel ashamed or don’t want to face the fact that they are “crazy”.

The diagnosis for bipolar disorder 1 is usually done after someone is in a manic episode.  This means that they have grandiose ideas, are spending a lot of money, they are taking risks they normally wouldn’t take, they are verbally overproductive, and are oftentimes psychotic.  This oftentimes results in a hospital stay where the person is medicated to try and stabilize their moods.  There are many medications out there that help with mania (anti-psychotics, etc) and there are also mood stabilizers. Sometimes it takes months to find the right combination of medications as every patient is different.

Usually, after a manic episode, the person will fall into a deep depression where they are in a deep hole that they feel like they will never get out of.  They are unmotivated, feel like life is not worth living, sometimes are suicidal, they do not enjoy things they used to enjoy and usually there is a change in appetite and sleep.

If someone with bipolar disorder has been admitted to the hospital, they most likely have been placed under what is called a 72 hour hold.  This is a time period where they are not allowed to leave and are assessed by the doctors and nurses to see if they are safe to return to society.  If a person stays past that time, either voluntarily or involuntarily, they usually start going to group therapy, participate in art activities, take classes that help them with self-esteem and are given coping skills. It is a learning time if they are in there for the first time.  The family gets involved too and there are usually sessions with the patient and their loved ones.

When the person starts to come out of their manic episode or are no longer suicidal, the staff start talking about discharge.  The patient is given resources to use when they leave, directions from their doctor as to what medications to take and when, and an appointment is made with their doctor and other people like social workers.

Depending on high functioning the person is, they are able to take care of themselves after leaving the hospital and life goes back to normal.  It is not something that will stay permanent unless they are lucky enough to have found the perfect medication cocktail.  It is constantly something that gets evaluated as the patient goes to their doctor’s visits.

Some people are able to work full time jobs and no one even knows that they have been in the hospital and would be shocked to hear that they were diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  Some people have to go on disability as the stress of their job is too much and will cause mania or depression.

If you have recently been diagnosed, there is always hope and things can and will get better. Hang in there and don’t expect everything to get “normal” again all at once.  If you truly have bipolar disorder, be ready for  a long fight.  Many people are able to use their manic highs and accomplish a lot. However, some tend to stay depressed and are unable to see the good things in life.

It is the hope of loved ones and professionals that the person who has bipolar disorder is stabilized and does not have mood swings anymore.  If you could view bipolar disorder like a roller coaster where the highs are the mania and the low points are the depression, you aim for the times where the roller coaster comes to a stop.

After getting back into the world after being diagnosed, you will learn where you can get help, where the resources are, who you can count on, and what your limitations are.  It is advisable that you create an action plan.

An action plan is something that you and your support system make together so that when you start to get into trouble and see the red flags (spending a lot of money, grandiose ideas, talking a lot, etc) that your support team surrounds you with love and helps you through it all.  Things that can be included in an action plan are: Someone takes away your keys and credit cards so you don’t drive crazy and get into an accident or spend money you don’t have.  Another thing that might be in an action plan is that when the person feels they are getting manic, they let everyone in their support system know.  Some things that the support system can do are to make sure the person is eating right as they oftentimes forget.  Some other things are to encourage them to journal, take long walks, make sure they get enough sleep. Sleep is very important when it comes to preventing a manic episode and can make it a lot worse.  People in the manic phase oftentimes can go more than 48 hours without sleeping.

After the action plan is created, it is a good idea to have everyone sign it including the person with the illness so that when they do get sick and have poor judgement they might not want to listen to their supporters.  However, with the action plan they can be reminded of what they agreed to.  One such thing is to limit social media time or to stay off the phone or not write any letters. By doing this, it prevents them from embarrassing themselves and doing things and saying things they will regret later. Encourage them to wait until they are stable to take on huge projects.

Living with bipolar disorder is not easy, but it can be manageable. With determination, a good support system, and a good medication regimen, people can lead normal lives.

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What needs to Change in the Mental Health System

change_orig

I posed this question in honor of Mental Health Month in my Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses group and FB page Mental Health Advocates.  Here are some answers (anonymously):

  • Health care coverage, insurance! More people working the field that know what they are doing!
  • Better training or vetting for mental health case workers
  •  Access to care.  To explore new possibilities with hallucinations
  • Money, money, money into the right hands. Having mounds of money, endless pockets, would allow everything to happen that is needed.
  •  The laws most of them are made under the impression they are helping them but in the long run it hurts them and the families!!  Easier accessibility for appts
     More advocates to change laws!  Evidenced Based Practices need to be taught & implemented.
    Supported employment! We need to provide more career choices and opportunities so that those with mental illnesses can be fully self-sufficient without having to take a dead-end job that doesn’t work.
  • First, mental health is not a business. People have needs, that should be net, for the safely of not only them, but to their caregivers and community. Second, they shouldn’t be made to feel like a stereotype.
    We need to create an actual ‘system’. It’s so hit or miss.
     Make people REALLY understand these are medical disorders, neurological disorders that need medical treatment.
     Absolutely . When understanding this disease is part of the public consciousness ,money will be appropriated for public health and insurers will be forced to include coverage .
  •  If there was a Law for them to care. Single Payer Mental Health Care.
  •  True equality in treating mental and physical health.
  • I work in the psychiatric field in NJ. Would you like a list? For example, NJ keeps requiring more education, certification, licensure, etc. All of which cost a lot of time and money to obtain. Therefore, employees expect to make more money.
  •  I am all for better providers, but running a community based program, working with non-profit funding structure, makes it near impossible to keep the good ones. My program serves between 90 and 115 every day with an average staff of less than 15. My colleagues should be nominated for saint-hood.
  • People’s attitudes about mental illness is a barrier in itself.
  • Better access to out patient care. Changes in the laws regarding involuntary commitments. It’s not against the law to be mentally ill, but at what point does it become necessary to involuntarily commit? I have been dealing with the system for at least 20 years and it’s broken!
  • Less medication and better psycho-analysis/therapy….u gotz to know what the REAL PROBLEM is, before u can treat it properly. more beds and staff that truly cares about the patients and not JUST a J-O-B…to pay the bills.
    ACCESS to affordable care above anything else!
    One unified communication system between all providers of mental health,,,,, we work with several agencies/facilities,,,, and the time and complications of sharing patient information is confusing, frustrating, and i’m sure is detrimental to the individuals’ needs
    More beds especially for children. Behavioral Health Hospitals that accept children in every major city. More pediatric psychiatrists not just psychiatrists who see children in addition to adults. More education and less stigma. End the bipolar weather jokes. End the over generalizing of OCD. It is much more complex than wanting clean hands or an organized house. When a friend or family member is hospitalized for MI, yes pray for them and their family, but also ask what you can do to help.
    We need change experience of disappointment and failure. A very flawed system, people especially youth shouldn’t have to turn to suicide because they ” are tired of telling their story” 💔💔💔
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What the World Looks Like when You have Bipolar Disorder

rose colored glassesI am not going to sugar coat this. Sometimes, the world can look very dim. However, sometimes it can look wonderful too. When it does look dim is during the deep depressions that come along with this disease also called manic depression. While in a manic episode, you look through glasses and see a world where everything is a place for you to change the world, enjoy everything, and are deluded enough to think that everything can always be this happy.
The downside of bipolar disorder, even while you are happy or what is called mania, you experience very high highs and very low lows. The lows are debilitating where you can not get out of bed, taking a shower takes effort, leaving the house takes motivation you do not have. You withdraw from friends, isolate yourself, and nothing looks like it will ever get better.
During the highs, you can do a lot of damage by spending a lot of money you don’t have, saying hurtful things to loved ones, lose friendships, and take risks you normally would not take.
For me, unlike most people who suffer from this horrible disease, I would rather be depressed. That is because of the damage I cause while manic is so devastating that it causes deeper depressions. Generally, the higher you get, the lower you fall. That is why it is very important for me to not let myself get manic. I have to admit, it is nice to have all the energy and ambition that comes with the illness, but would rather not have those if it means I have delusions of grandeur that cause me to do things I normally would not do and end up with a very high credit card bill.
So, what does the world look like when you struggle with bipolar disorder? It depends on who you ask, but for me, it is a very discouraging illness, however, I have done wonderful things while manic that I am proud of. For example, I blog under the pseudonym Bipolar Bandit, founded and run a group called Advocates for People with Mental Illnesses and have a Facebook page and several other media sites called Mental Health Advocates United. I touch the lives of over 300,000 people between all my social media sites.
I also have been a manager of a movie theater, Teacher of the Year, have run an event called Embrace Life Day that had free food, entertainment, speakers like The Wounded Warrior Project and vendors and exhibitors that volunteered their time. For example, we had karate instructors, horse therapy, spiritual leaders and NAMI, DBSA, Bring Change to Mind and Mental Health America, Suicide Prevention, the local hospital psychiatric wards were all represented. This event drew over 400 people the first year and was on the news!
As I said before, I am not going to sugar coat things. However, I can tell you that, overall I feel blessed to have this illness, yet wish I knew what it was like to lead a “normal life”.

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Therapy Tips for Bipolar Bandit

therapy

I have been seeing Michelle for over a year now and she wanted me to share some tips that I have given her to better help manage her bipolar disorder.  All in all, she copes with her bipolar disorder very well. She has held down multiple jobs, owns her own house, and although she still struggles with severe depression and serious manic episodes, her determination and drive have helped her conquer her illness.

She copes with her diagnosis well, but there is still work to be done as she now sees me frequently.  She does not see me when she is depressed as she says “it does not help because it is a chemical imbalance and there is not much to talk about. She also has stated that it takes too much effort to leave her house to eve go the grocery store so getting to the appointment is hard.

I would have to say that she is one of my favorite patients when she is manic as she is kind and funny and her true personality shows through.  She has even brought me gum because she found out I like to chew gum, is open and hones and jokes around and makes me laugh. I enjoy my time with her.

Here are some things we have learned together while I have been counseling her:

  1. Don’t stress about not getting enough sleep
  2. Don’t borrow tomorrow’s problems
  3. Eat right: Stay away from sugars and carbohydrates
  4. Force yourself to go for walks and/or swim as  great stress reliever
  5.   Stress can make everything worse and recently she is moving into a new house and the best advice she things I have given her is to pace myself.  Take time to do fun things with her husband, and take long walks, talk to friends, serf the internet, and other things we have talked about.
  6. One of her favorites I suggested was to not borrow tomorrow’s problems
  7. Another one of her favorites is to not live with what if’s.  She is selling her house and buying a new house with her husband. She likes having her house with rent coming in and fears if something were to happen between her husband and her, that she could always have her home to fall back on. I told her to not have a backup plan.
  8. While she is manic, she has a hard time communicating with her husband and others. She has learned that we have one mouth and two ears and it is imporant to allow the other person to talk without interrupting. This has been a long process from before I met her.  She has been able to function as a teacher, a manager without anyone knowing she has a mental illness because she can listen and on purpose refrain from talking too much even though she would like to talk a mile a minute. She has learned that others can’t keep up with her.  Her mom used to call it being verbally over productive.  It is not that it is easy for her, but it is beneficial to keep relationships to keep this in mind as it can turn people away.
  9. She has a hard time keeping friends due to the embarrassment of things she has done while she is manic. I think it is more of her doing than theirs.  She has a lot to give to a relationship and is  a great friend and her true friends accept her for who she is and try to understand that she goes through difficult times.

That is all for now, but I look forward to learning more about  her and her family and give more advice in the future.

 

 

Posted in bipolar disorder, mental health awareness, Therapy and Therapists, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment