Saturday, May 26, 2012

Nothing like a little mainstream media...

I follow a lot of mental health cases in court, sometimes the media boggles my mind with their interviews. This New York Times article quotes a doctor (unrelated to the case, likely brought in as an expert in psychopharmacology) described olanzapine as "not a drug that is usually given to people who are normal". Really? They are "in the scheme of drugs, these are pretty heavy drugs". Shocking revelation there skippy. Speaking as someone who has been on olanzapine, who was warned by many many people that it is an awful drug, and who has experienced the weight gain and exhaustion, and the life disruption that comes with this drug (and many others). As a branch of medicine its super important to talk about a drug given to a bipolar and schizophrenic as "not a drug that is usually given to people who are normal". What drugs are given to people who are normal psychopharmacology expert?

I don't like to speculate on the outcomes of cases ahead of time, but I'm particularly saddened by this type of case. This CBS News article outlines some of the problems of this particular case. The guy who confessed to the 33 year old case would have been about 18, and presumably murdered the 6 year old boy for no reason and never committed another crime since. There will also be questions of the validity of his confession, not only because he's sick, but also because he has hallucinations. If the prosecution can't find proof or motive a conviction is not certain because the defense may argue that it never happened. If there haven't been other similar crimes he's committed who is to say the hallucinations haven't planted the idea in his head this was his doing, in spite of being innocent?

I hate it that these cases see so much media and other developments don't. I understand why it happens, and if he is guilty I'm glad he came forward. Mental illness does not excuse behavior like that and he should be tried by a jury. Jail is probably not the answer, but time in a locked psychiatric facility for his crime is more than justified. I feel like the public doesn't get a good view of the mentally ill population, and if there was more unbiased information there would be less stigma and fear. Instead we see the guy that claims bipolar disorder after attacking Milwaukee's mayor thinking he'll be forgiven. That's BS. Mental illness does not excuse that kind of behavior and should be punished accordingly.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

10 Ways To Improve Mental Health

This article spoke to me.

In particular #4 was really powerful for me. I have a bad memory because everything I remember is colored with emotional attachment. I know I'm not the only one that has this problem (even within my family), but it's really isolating to remember that way rather than remembering facts.

4. Understand the power of your perception and how to change it. We often make up stories about people and events in our lives that have nothing to do with the facts of the situation. They are simply our interpretation. Your interpretation can cause you great unnecessary turmoil. If your perception isn’t serving you, change it! Make up a better, happier, more generous story.

Rights of Passage

I got to spend last weekend with my family, best weekend in a long time. Worst in a lot of ways too, but that isn't their fault, that's all my brain. There was a lot of people. A lot of people. Some that I was actually a little scared to see and one in particular I was really scared to see, but it turned out ok. I have the best mom ever. Ever. She's so supportive and she knows exactly what to say when I'm really struggling with interacting with people. Plus shes really funny when she drinks. (One drop! That's all it takes! Thank your Grandpa Marv for that knowledge! - Of course, the real funny thing is she does that anyway.) My brother is amazing too. He does the best impressions. (Ule, anyone? You know he's the life of the party!) It's incredible to see what amazing women my little baby cousins are growing into, they're beautiful and really considerate of each other when they think no one's watching. I always felt like I could never share my illness with people, like it was shameful. Society taught me that, my ex taught me that, and my most recent job tried to teach me that. But I got to talk about it this weekend. My mom talks about it. I don't know how much she shares, but that makes me more comfortable being who I am in front of the people I need most. Even though sometimes I feel like an outsider, it's easier to remember that's my brain trying to alienate me from the people I need the most when my family is willing to listen.

Graduation was last weekend, I spent it where I needed to be more than anywhere else in the world. At my cousin's high school graduation. There was a little pang of guilt when I realized I wouldn't have the graduation pictures, but that passes. My diploma will be mailed to me by the middle of summer and I have a cap and gown, I can take pictures then. Photoshop people in around me. ;) I got some pretty sweet presents. My aunts & uncles and grandma gave me money so I get the earrings I've been eyeing. My parents bought me a Kindle. Coolest present ever. I never thought I would like one, but its super awesome.

Now, as I return to reality there is paperwork to fill out about a job that gets more and more distant and heartless by the day. I talked to my boss twice today. It's weird, but the more I read dystopian young adult novels the easier it is for me to pick out the acid behind the smile. Not just with work, but everywhere. Some of that is training from my former coworkers, trying to learn when enough was enough. Not because they were ever cruel intentionally, and some of them never were anything but kind and understanding, even when I pushed the boundaries of acceptable like I accidentally do. But everyone has limits, and I spent a lot of time at my old job trying to figure out how to know what those were. It's not easy, and I would still rather just be me all the time with no filter at all, but I know now that there are people who are intentionally cruel. I can't just be me with no filter at all because those people capitalize on any weakness and exploit it at the first opportunity. I'm really susceptible to manipulation by media, and lately I've been grateful for that. The Hunger Games and Divergent have made me more cynical of humanity, which has allowed me an easier time of picking the snakes out of the crowd.

I'm still having panic attacks so bad that I feel like I'm dying of a heart attack, but it is what it is. I had seven beers last weekend. Three at my friends house, one the night I had so much fun with my mom, and three when we stayed at Terry's cousins. That's a lot for me to handle. Plus I've given in to the sugar and caffeine again. That has to stop. That's more dangerous than alcohol. Time to detox and prepare for the next big event, my best friend's wedding. It's really important to me that I'm there for her no matter what she needs, which means I must be coherent and that will only happen after a good old fashioned detox.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Corporate or Academic?

I finished undergrad today. Surprisingly, it actually lifted a huge amount of stress from me. I did feel like I was having a heart attack as I walked into the testing room though. It seems silly now. Yesterday I mailed in my graduate school contract. I'm officially entering into my next stage of life.

Speaking of the next stage of my life I discovered something really eye opening about my experience in corporate America. When I asked Wayne State if I should wait until I get there and know if I need accommodations, or if I should request the accommodations information in case I need to use accommodations. They actually want me to request them and decide after the fact if it's necessary.

Contrast that with my new lesson from the corporate world. My long term disability claim has been denied, which I am currently in the process of appealing. The benefits center, which acts as a liaison between my company and the insurance is not able to let me return to work while my restrictions are in place, even if the appeal is denied. This means I get the joy of sitting at home waiting to be fired because my forced six month short term disability has used all of my FMLA time. My only recourse is the fact that I had unofficial accommodations at work for almost a year and a half, and I qualify for ADA accommodations through my school for a quiet testing environment.

For now, I'm done with undergrad. Tonight I have a ton of forms to fill out for possible social security benefits, and some research to do on how to file a complaint with the EEOC. Life is really weird sometimes. I never would have pictured myself here, about to enter grad school, able to fight back against discrimination. So strange.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Starting over!

I've been reading a LOT about bipolar lately, though it's really been following severe mental illness in general (schizophrenia, paranoia, bipolar, borderline personality disorder...). I've joined the group Thrive with Bipolar Disorder on Facebook (Side note: it would be super nice if I could keep those comments from going to my friends newsfeeds. Not that I wouldn't share that much of myself anyway, but I feel like it can be off-putting for friends that aren't on that level of "there" yet with the illness...), I read blogs, and follow what books are coming out. I follow all kinds of information about mental illness; marriage, children, pregnancy, individual responsibility, legal proceedings, scientific breakthroughs...everything I can get my hands on. I've been keeping track of it in a strange way, as always, a combination of my memory, bookmarks on my computer, sharing with family and friends... Anyway, I feel that method isn't working anymore and now that I am 6 days away from my commencement ceremony and have no undergraduate work left my goal is to post all of that stuff on here to keep better track of it. Starting today! :)

I just read this article about the difficulty knowing the difference between pre-hypomania and exuberance. As always when I read anything I immediately apply it to my experience, and my life. This actually has been a life saver in my last few weeks of the semester since I've found Thrive on Facebook. I've been able to focus on things I do in relation to others questions. But I digress, returning to the article at hand I realized how lucky I am to have the family and friends that support me unconditionally and are able to be objective about my moods. I think the best part is they are objective in different ways, which lets me figure out who I am and how I feel about my moods.

In the last 4 years I have met and married the best husband on the face of the planet. Totally a biased opinion, but it's mine and this is my blog so that's what I'm sharing. Terry and I have worked together to create a "mood map" of sorts for my bipolar to help figure out when things need attention and when they don't. It's not perfect, and it will forever be a work in progress, but its allowed us lots of freedom in our relationship that I didn't experience when I was with the ex. That's been a really positive experience. Last weekend was really rough, Terry was at camp helping with cub scouts, and I was supposed to be studying. Instead, since there is so much happening in my life right now my brain went into overdrive and I didn't sleep at all. However, because of our "mood map" I knew that I was going to be ok. I could text & check in, there was no freaking out. I could vocalize that I'm stressed, scared, and too much is changing at once. He knew that before he left town so there was no worry about the huge impact my mood had on my Facebook updating. We came up with a plan together for how to handle it, I did some little things that mean a lot to me (haircut with shampoo, eyebrow wax, shopping), I spent time with my best friend who understands me better than I understand myself. We focused on conversation and each other and her beautiful baby.

In my experience pre-hypomania and exuberance can be the same thing. The end result depends immensely on how I treat the feelings when they happen. Because of the "mood map" and my exposure to people who love me and have been around for a long time, who have seen me develop through the bipolar, who have stood by me when I needed help the most, I can actually turn pre-hypomania into exuberance and prevent the whole thing in the first place. Currently I still have anxiety/panic bordering on heart attack all the time lately, I'm still losing feeling in my extremities and having trouble with circulation, but its stress. There's a lot of changes happening. My long term claim is under review again, I'm finishing a whole chapter of my academic career and preparing for something completely new and scary. Not only new and scary, but new and scary and with all new people. That's enough to make me have a panic attack all by itself. I just keep reminding myself how amazing everyone I encountered in my last bit of undergrad has been with my illness. It's been infinitely better than the way corporate America treated me. That makes the panic disappear a little. I'm still packing. I'll be living out of as many suitcases as I can fit in Terry's Ion come June 1st.