Addiction’s sibling: Mental Illness

                          schiz·o·phre·ni·a

[ˌskitsəˈfrēnēə, ˌskitsəˈfrenēə]

NOUN

   a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

    From a decently young age I can remember hearing things that weren’t real. I knew that if I focused on the voices then I could properly hear what they were saying.

 I can’t remember what the voices started saying, but as I got older the voices got louder and more frequent. I always thought that those with Schizoprenia or DID (dissassociative identity disorder) were such interesting characters, but I never dreamed I would be one of them.

    The voices started around age 12, but they only showed up once every 3-4 months. The rarity of them made me think it was something normal and what everyone went through. After the voices came the visual hallucinations and the paranoia. They paranoia was always under the surface while growing up , but it truley showed its self around age 19. Like most people at 19 I figured that it was all in my head and could be drowned in alcohol, but of course I was wrong. 

    While drinking I wasn’t conciously aware of the voices or hallucinations, but the day after is a different story. I would wake up and the visual hallucinations would come with a vengence with the paranoia. As I got older rather than indirect paranoia, and just all out fear it started to get paranoia of very specific objects.

    I never liked mirrors, they always seemed to show something that was watching, waiting, and planning to get me. At my best a mirror unsettles me, and at my worse I have to cover it up or break it to keep the thing from gettting me. The mirrors always seemed to breath and want me. To this day I can’t say why mirrors, but I will always fear them even a little. I’m still scared to turn my back to one.

    Mirrors being the break from reality, my periphrial vision was the culprit that aided my visual hallucinations. Always just out of the corner of my eye, just bearly out of sight were the shadows. Nothing with a true or set form, but always there ready to get me at any moment. It happened most with there was something I had to focus on it felt. Something that was grabbing my attention so I had to let my guard down and then the shadows in the corners would start to stir.

    I was 23 when i had my first psychotic episode. 

We just refer to them as episodes in the family cause there is no set term for what happens. The episodes start the same with hyper awarness, and then the paranoia. Hyper awarness is when all of your sense are trying to focus on everything around you at the same time. The mental stress it can cause is excruciating, and is often a symptom of PTSD. While my senses are over loaded the paranoia kicks in, the fear that I’m missing something. Some crucial bit of information that will keep me safe.

    The voices will start, but they aren’t word or even cohiesive they are just loud screams. I feel them building and getting louder till I can’t hear anything but them. Thats when the self harm comes. I begin clawing at my torso, my head, and anywhere else I can dig into myself. I always feel like if I get deep enough, if I can claw deep enough iI can bleed the voices out. Outside of the episodes I know how impractical it sounds, but during an episode I need to be restrained and calmed down.

    After three psychotic episodes I was admitted to a psychiatric ward in Indiana. I had clawed at my chest and left cuts across it, and my fiance took me to the ER to get checked in. During my short stay there I was able to get medication, and understand to help “stay grounded”. Stay grounded is the term used to stay in connection to reality and to help prevent other episodes from happenning.

    As for dealing with it completely there really is no rule book for guidance. It’s not a easy treated illness and every day is different. That being said, having the family I do and having such a strong Fiance I’m sure that I will be okay. The future is unknown and filled with much needed therapy and medication, but it’s much better than being committed.

I asked my son to write this. For many of us, sharing our story is helpful in recovering, whether it’s addiction or mental illness. I am proud of his courage and determination to do whatever he must, to learn how to live with schizophrenia.

It is heart-breaking to know that he’s dealing with this. I hope and pray that he’s ok. I am incredibly thankful for the strength he has, and the amazing people God’s placed in his life. 

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Why I hate judgemental people.

There is a person that I work with who recently made some remarks that I found to be really offensive, not to mention ignorant, about people who struggle with addictions. Things like “they must like it in jail! They get a bed, free food, internet, a gym…”

Like I said, ignorant. 

I’ve been mulling it over; how much it affects me when people look at (us) as low-life’s. I know people have had that sort of disdain for me for most of my life. 

So, I work alongside this person almost every shift. It’s been burning in my stomach for weeks. I am well aware of the dangers of harboring resentments, and I’ve been giving a lot of thought to how to get past this one. Yesterday I decided to just be extra nice to her, but when I said “Thank you, Jane!” She (following the script we’ve established, I guess) snapped back with a “you’re welcome” that was dripping with sarcasm. 

I guess I heard Someone whisper in my ear, something along the lines of ” what is it in ME that is so bothered by her?” Do I see in her a trait that I’ve been guilty of? Is this a case of “You spot it, you’ve got it?”

By the end of today’s shift, I had come to a conclusion on this.

The reason I have such a terribly difficult time with judgemental people, is that they cause ME to judge them. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, really. I see/hear them condescending or patronizing someone, and in my mind I go into immediate aggression mode.  I’m grateful to be able to make that connection. When I judge them, how am I any better than they?

I’ve torn this woman up in my mind so many times. I know there are several UGLY things that come to mind whenever I see her. 

I judge the SHIT out of her, and I want to stop! I don’t like the person that I become when forced to co-exist…
And I need to remember how it makers me feel. I will ask God to help me love her. I will try harder to see some good in her. I will not look at her because I know she’ll be watching me (another life-long trigger).  

I know that the degree to which I judge others, is how much I will be judged.

God help me!
Possted from my loft beside the mountains. 

3 short days

I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to say about Good Friday & Easter, and I’m still not sure, but I am going to write something, now. 

If you Google “Crucifixion story” and “Easter story”, you can find the 4 gospels’ accounts of these events, and in whichever translation you prefer.

The things that are recorded as having happened just as Jesus was dying must have been difficult to ignore. I mean, there was an earthquake, the sky became dark, and the veil in the temple was ‘somehow’ torn in half. Oh, and let’s not forget that after the earth quake, several dozen graves were emptied as their residents came walking out, roaming the countryside.

In fact, as Jesus died one of the Roman guards who had been involved in the brutal beating and Crucifixion, just hours earlier, fell to his knees and proclaimed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God.

For several years, around this time of year, I liked to re-watch “The Passion of the Christ”. I know it’s not 100% Bible-based, but it’s accurate enough to make it’s point. It’s easily the most realistic account of the subject matter.
I know my mind’s ability to minimize or exaggerate, and that’s why I want to be reminded of some of the gruesome and excruciating things He endured. For me, and for you.

It’s been said that the devil’s best weapon to keep people out of church is the “Christians” who are already there. It certainly worked on me for a long time. The worst abuse I’d ever endured was at the hands of someone who CLAIMED to represent Christ.
It was many (about 20) years before I could accept that most or all of the church-going men were not abusing their women. Today I know better.

I looked at the humans sitting in the pews to be my examples of Christ, which was a huge mistake.

As I felt myself being drawn (wooed, really) back to God, I determined that I wasn’t going to be fooled again.
The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was proof of the lengths the Father will go to in order to show His love for us. I know it doesn’t make sense to a lot of folks, but it’s a heart thing, not a mind thing.

Easter is my favorite holiday. It’s about second chances and new life. I hope you’re able to let God get close to you this weekend. He’s not what so many people make Him out to be. 
But don’t take my word for it. Ask God to show himself to you. He will. 

Hurt People Hurt People

​It’s been quiet here in Wondrland, and it’s not because I haven’t wanted to say anything. I’ve been wanting to talk about Mental Illness, and haven’t been certain how to approach the conversation. Cos, you know, that’s something you’re “not supposed to talk about”. But since there’s not a day that goes by when I’m not faced with evidence of mental illness in someone I know, including myself, I want to talk about it.

As you probably know, mental illness can be hereditary or it can be a response to events in a person’s life. Something that you may not be aware of (I wasn’t for a long time) is that a mental illness can begin to appear at any point in a person’s life. Childhood, adulthood, or any other time of life, things can begin to go…sideways. The part that matters most, I suppose, is when the “differences” start to be addressed and treated. 
When I began to have concerns about my child’s behavior, I was told  “that’s just how boys are!” and also, from my family members, “You were the same way at that age!” Which caused me to wonder if that’s just how the boys in MY family have always been, and if there was something going on with ME at that age that might have been handled differently, and had a seriously more positive outcome?

So I began searching the web for information to explain the things I was noticing in my boy.  I found a lot of answers to the questions that had been running through my head, and raised some new questions! For example, I had not been aware that symptoms of ADHD/ADD look very different in boys than they do in girls. I accredit this ignorance to the fact that nobody was talking about ANY kind of mental illness in children back in the 60’s and 70’s. At least, nobody my parents or I knew. 
I can’t even describe the feelings I had when I heard that when I was being punished for being “lazy” or “daydreaming” or “lying” about things I was POSITIVE I had not lied about, that it wasn’t my fault. As a young girl, I was disciplined for all of these things. Rigorously. And often. I now know that my Dad had been through essentially the same traumas when he was young.   Come to find out, I’d had the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder as far back as I can remember. Growing out of that period came the depression, “generalized anxiety disorder” and PTSD that have been my continual companions ever since. The realization that there was something unusual about the way my mind processed things motivated me to find out as much as I could about psychology. I knew I was different by the time I was about 12 or so, but didn’t know what “IT” was, exactly.  I’ll never forget the first book I read about a person my age that had a mental illness. “Lisa, Bright and Dark” told of the daily life of a teen girl who was behaving increasingly strangely, and how it was ignored, denied, and finally addressed. It shined a light on a part of me that I’d never taken out of the shadows before. It told me that I wasn’t the only one. 

You can find more info about Lisa, Bright and dark on Google or Amazon. (I tried to post a link for ya, but it doesn’t seem to be working.)

I remember my Dad asking me what I had to be sad about?! I had such a good life (and it’s not wrong, by many standards, I was VERY blessed), and I was so “ungrateful” I should be “ashamed”. And of course, I was. For a very long time. I’m not certain that I’ve gotten past that shame, even now.  It seems like a good time to write down what the difference between guilt and shame is. As I have come to understand it,  GUILT is the feeling I get when I’ve done something wrong, or BAD. SHAME is the feeling that I am BAD or WRONG. Period. How many times did our parents tell us “Shame on you”? I couldn’t tell you, but I did share what I’d learned about the difference, the next time I was told that I should be ashamed. 
So, it took years of discussion with my Mom before she accepted that antidepressants weren’t “drugs”, and they didn’t cause you to feel high. Thank God, she wasn’t so hesitant to get me to a counselor when I hit my teens, but medication was a tougher pill for her to swallow (see what I did there?). Several years ago she was even able to be helped by taking them for a while. I’m happy to say that she doesn’t seem to need them at this point. 

And so, now the generational “quirks,” we’ll call them, have shown themselves in other parts of my extended family. As the children grow into their teens and young adulthood, they’re giving (me) reasons to be concerned. I see the same symptoms that I showed at that age, and I can only hope and pray that the stigma and “what will the neighbors think?” won’t keep the adults from getting the kids to a Dr. of some sort. I understand that everyone is busy, running as fast as they possibly can to…I don’t know, rest? And I absolutely know that the cost associated with mental illness treatment can be intimidating. But guess what? If it HAS to be done, we find a way. (And if we’re not willing to address/treat the problem, we find an EXCUSE.)

I can’t help but think of my Dad, and his distaste (translated: refusal) in asking for help.  When I was probably about 10, I was at my Dad’s house and he was “partying” and dancing around, having a good time. I think Elton John was playing loudly on the record player. Well, somehow, Dad danced in the wrong place and caused the horizontal blinds to fall down onto his foot. THAT ended the dancing. For the next 2 hours or so, my stepmom and Grandma tried to explain to Dad that the end of his toe was BARELY attached, and he needed to get to the ER. He didn’t think it was that bad. He musta been HIGHHIGHHIGHHIIIGH. 

Then, many years later, when his life was in a downward spiral because of his drinking and drug use, he again insisted that he didn’t need any help, thank you very much. If the helicopters would stop flying over his shed, and the spies would stop creeping around his house, he would have been fine. But just in case, he always had a loaded .38 handy. It takes some of us longer than others to have our denial broken down. Thank God he did get clean/sober, and the rest is wonderful history. 

So, it makes me think of Dad when I hear adults replying (re: getting their kids to see someone or see if perhaps medication would help) “Counselors are a waste of money” or, even better “We don’t have time”. I love what I heard James Dobson say about parenting older childen. He said that up until that time, it’s like you’re on a ship with them, teaching them the roaps and how to stay safe, etc. Once they get to their teens, we have to pick our battles carefuly, and just keep them from jumping ship. My kids have done infinitely better with negotiating the rough waters than I did, and I attribute that to their getting help when they did. I just happened to have personal experience  that allowed me to recognise the symptoms in my children.  

Depression in kids may not look the way you’d expect it to. Kids aren’t likely to necessarily let you see the depth of their despair. (I was told to stop being such a baby when I was unable to keep my sadness from coming out.) Kids and teenagers, AREN’T supposed to be continually sad or angry (anger is what we see when sadness isn’t “allowed”), and it’s not just a part of that period. Sure, moodiness is guaranteed to be a frequest visitor when the hormones are flying around, but that’s different from being angry or sad ALL THE TIME. The worst thing we as parents can do is to be overcome by pride, not wanting to find out what “they” would think. 10 or 20 years down the road, “they” won’t even be in your life, and if they are, they still won’t be as valuable as your child’s wellbeing. Right? 
I am sometimes hesitent to speak up about matters of mental health. I was shamed and punished enough to make it quite clear to me: act normal and don’t talk about anything. It’s still a subtle influencer on my decisions today.  I appreciate your taking time out of your day to read this. I feel strongly about these issues and I’m not sure if I am able to make that clear in my writing. So I throw it out there, and hope someone catches something they can use. 

What are your thoughts? Have you seen addictions and mental illness moving down your family’s bloodline? How is it dealt with, or is it?
From my cabin in the woods. 

What’s so happy about Valentine’s Day?

I have experienced many holidays as a single person (or worse-wishing I was single), with the accompanying loneliness that seems to be magnified by each “special” day. 

Here in the States, practically every holiday has become another way for the cards & gift businesses to get rich. God forbid you don’t decorate your trees & bushes with orange and green lights for Halloween, and giant blow-up rabbits for Easter! It goes without saying that any day that’s deemed a holiday on the American calendar, you will be expected to buy cards and gifts. 

And when you’re a single person, all this gift-giving can feel like a big foam finger singling you out: “LOOK! It’s a table for ONE!!” (Gasps) “Wonder what’s wrong with her? Nobody is eating with her!” …Followed by the pitying shaking of their heads and “tsk, tsk, tsk.” At least that’s how I felt. 

Of course in my mind the world was pointing and whispering because DUH it was all about me. I was always concerned about what “they” would think of me, and guess what? They weren’t thinking about me, at all! Most people seem to be too worried about keeping up appearances to realize that they’re just NOT THAT IMPORTANT to the passers-by on the street. 

Anyway. I wanted to write a post to say something about being unattached, or single on Valentine’s Day. I know it was horribly lonely for me before I began my journey into sobriety. I honestly didn’t know how to behave unless I had a Significant Other. 

Once I got clean & sober, I was focused on my baby and exhausted, so I didn’t notice the loneliness as much. 

The folks in the rooms talked about being lonely, and sometimes it was a sincere conversation, whereas other times it came from a Newbie who had a tale of woe, full of stories how she didn’t understand him, or she did him wrong; (you know, the stuff pretty much any old time country song was made of)…He (or she) would look around the room then down at the floor and say “I’m just so lonely!” Then he would look up slightly to see which of the women were taking the bait… Yeah, I’m not interested in that brand of loneliness, for this post. 

I began to feel the deep, empty-heart feelings of loneliness, and it wasn’t like it had  been before. I didn’t really want to have a “relationship” to keep me company, even though a person to become enmeshed with would certainly help to distract me from that hollow place in my gut. 

After working some of the Steps with a Sponsor I began to feel less heavy in my soul. When I completed 4 & 5, it was as if the pool of loneliness had been drained. Strange, huh? 

I talked to my Sponsor and my Higher Power about it, and this is what I realised: I wasn’t lonely because I was alone. I’d felt lonely for all those years because I couldn’t stand my own company! Pre-recovery (and even long after, to a much lesser degree), wherever I went, the radio or TV were on. 

ALWAYS.

 It kept the voices in my head down to a dull roar, for the most part. I’d noticed that about myself and wondered why it was, until I got past those Steps and learned that I’m actually NOT a horrible and worthless person. I began to get some acceptance of who I was and why I’d done those things. It became possible for me to spend time in the quiet. It was even pleasant!

So, for me, the “Universal Loneliness” that I was told plagued all of us alkie/druggies was really a treatable malady. The chemicals were just a symptom, and the solution was in the Steps. 

I hope that you had a great day today, whether there were cards and kisses involved, or whether you just spent a while with yourself.

I am learning to be content, whatever situation I turn out to be in. I know there are many ways to find peace & contentment once the self-induced anesthesia wears off. The Steps are the simple, practical way that has set and IS setting me free. 
Happy February 14th!