Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

I met this elephant trainer not too long ago. Only spoke with him for a brief time, but he was very polite and we shared an intense series of sentences about mental health (illness, disease) and stigma. He said I should be proud of what I live with, not ashamed. I think generally I am proud of balancing my existence with a mental illness. But yes, there are times I am ashamed, afraid, to mention it because of the stigma attached to it.

So many people live with a mental illness and the weight of the stigma is overwhelming. The weight of keeping up appearances is daunting. Think of any other illness. Really, right now, think of any other illness. Now imagine a person saying, “I just can’t do stuff today because of the ____________. ” Every single person would give that person a pass and probably some sympathy, maybe offer some help. Make a meal and drop it off.

Now fill in that blank with a mental illness.

Oh, chin up, it’s just work. You can get through it. Cheer up, it can’t be that bad. Oh, I didn’t know, sorry. Well, the weekend is coming.

Or nothing at all.

Not everyone will respond this way. The folks who respond with the same compassion as the “any other illness” scenario probably know or live with someone who has a mental illness.

The ones who respond any other way don’t know what it’s like to live with it and don’t know much about it. Why would they? It’s easy and acceptable to not know about mental illness because of the stigma. Because of the outlandish Hollywood portrayals that make a mockery of the day to day life with mental illness. Those portrayals set things back every time. You want to see a good portrayal, a understated, realistic one? Watch Love and Mercy.

Back to the example above. “I just can’t do stuff today.” But instead the person living with a mental illness will pick themselves, put on the socially acceptable happy face, the persona we assume each day to hide what makes others uncomfortable. Well, we get tired. Some get really tired. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being ashamed. I’m tired of keeping it out of the way because folks would either have to educate themselves a bit or simply be sympathetic on faith, even if they don’t understand it.

I’ve written it before. Everyone knows someone who is living with mental illness, you just might not know it. But if you know me, in real life or just because you miraculously stumbled onto my humble blog, you know someone who lives (and quite well, thank you very much) with schizophrenia every freakin’ day. Ask me questions if you don’t understand something. Educate yourself and spread it around. Help to get rid of the shame, the stigma, the misconceptions. Read a pamphlet. Read a website (vett your sources, please!).

Remember, you know someone.

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While Carrie Fisher and I did not share the same diagnosis, we shared the same approach to mental health. While my reach is clearly not as far and wide (I don’t have access to the Millennium Falcon), I do my best to advocate and destigmatize mental illness to change the conversation to mental health. Ms. Fisher, much like Patty Duke, helped me to see my strength. I could do anything I wanted to with my life in spite of schizophrenia. It did not have to define me. Did it shape me in many ways? Of course. But it doesn’t define me.

Take a few moments to read this:

carrie fisher mental health quotes BuzzFeed
Think about how many people you know that live with some type of mental illness. Think about what would be missing in your life if treatments had not advanced, if those family members and friends were not strong enough to do life every day while managing mental illness. Be inspired and then help destigmatize mental illness. 

We need this to be a conversation about mental health, and not be fearful of illnesses that are still so misunderstood. Educate yourself. Read articles (no, just reading the title or headline doesn’t count, in this and all forms of becoming less ignorant). Talk to people about it. If you have questions, ask someone you know with mental illness to share about what a day is like for her.

Carrie Fisher’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, died today. A day after her fierce daughter. In memory of both of them, educate yourself about mental health. And watch Postcards from the Edge. Freakin’ hysterical.

Rest in peace, ladies. And Carrie, others will keep up the good fight. We’ll use the Force.

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I don’t know what we’d have for lunch, but truly I don’t think I would have time to eat. So John could pick the restaurant. As long as it has something chocolate. And sweet tea. And actually, it would be great if there was a way I could smoke too, but then we’d have to use the HTTM to go back to the 80s.

I went into the movie on faith alone that John Cusack would deliver one of his fabulous performances. I like the Beach Boys, I like Wilson Phillips, but didn’t know a lot about them. Learned a little during W-P heydey because the publicity talked a bit about the rough relationship with their dad and I assumed drugs. So truly I thought Love & Mercy would be about Brian Wilson’s rehab and yada yada yada.


1:36:00-1:36:35. If you watch no other part of this movie, cue up these 35 seconds. That’s me up on the screen. No, I’m not a tenor from a beloved American band. But that is me. I know Brian lived it and he and I could have several lunches together comparing notes. Mr. Cusack nailed it. Without bullshit around it, without sensationalizing it, just being there in that moment when you are finally tired enough to trust someone with the words, “I hear voices.”

And as immediately as the words pass over your lips, the look of anticipation expecting the person you breathed the words to to laugh, walk away, call you crazy without realizing that you are trying to express that very sentiment in a very real way. Then from 1:36:36-1:36:49, Melinda says, “lets go” and Brian says, “I don’t know how.” I wish I could explain how true that was and how well it was delivered. You forget how to do things on your own. I was lucky my psychiatrist was amazing. Dr. O was incredible at cognitive behavioral therapy. Yes, there were meds and yes, they make you fall asleep, feel nauseous, and basically numb, not really alive but rather simply functioning. But you really don’t know how. You have to relearn everything.

I couldn’t make even the simplest decisions. What to wear, what to eat, which way to walk to classes. And Paul Dano at the table with the cacophony of noises. Dear God, make it stop. That still affects me today, noises that I can’t control that become all too loud, deafening, and never-ending. The fixation Dano had throughout the “past” scenes. The exhaustion and complacency Cusack had in the “future” scenes, worn down by decades of living with it.


As I believe I have written before, I was lucky, I got treatment after only seven years from onset. I cannot fathom decades without treatment. I have permanent re-wiring from just the seven years, and a few minor episodes since initial treatment, and I can only imagine the amount of compensation Mr. Wilson has to do every day. I had long-term side effects from my meds. Some went away once I got off of them, like the glaucoma, but the neuropathy in my hands and feet is here to stay. I no longer notice the tardive dyskinesia, it’s been there that long. Again, I can only imagine the side-effects Mr. Wilson contends with on a daily basis.

Oh my lanta, the withdrawal he must have gone through when he finally got out from under Landy’s control. I am so glad they did not show that because it had to be wicked and painful and long. And I am happy Landy got what he deserved. That wasn’t vengeance, that was justice and protecting others from his disgusting behavior.

The auditory hallucinations were portrayed in an incredibly authentic way and the speech patterns for both past and future had just enough of the “classic” schizophrenic speech. Side note-my theory on the speech, from a sample size of one, so not very scientific, is that I was just trying to keep up with the voices and the people around me. The style of the film resonated as true too. I have snippets of my youth, scenes, and I can flashback to them quite vividly, almost on command. But a perfect timeline does not exist.

I read in a comment or a review somewhere that the movie moved a little too slow. Then that person is either lucky enough to never have lived with mental illness or is living with it still and had to distance himself. Time moves so differently when you’re in an episode. Not just for the person, but for those living or working with him. You try to keep up with real time, but you’re not sleeping, eating, or thinking properly. It’s harder than it seems.

Obviously I didn’t see this in the theaters, but at home courtesy of Redbox and thank goodness. I hate having a runny, snotty nose with big tears running down my face in public, even in a dark movie theater. Plus I had to pause it a few times to compose myself. Any movie that can evoke emotion is one that I love and this one goes way up to the top of my list. I saw myself, a true, real, believable portrayal of me, on screen. Thank you, John Cusack, Paul Dano, and, most importantly, Brian Wilson for sharing your story.


And yes, peeps of my generation, I would thank John for some choice earlier roles, showing us that not all guys were going to be dicks, but that some would actually treat a lady nicely. And of course, 1408. And Grosse Pointe Blank. I’m no idiot.

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There was no reason for a 12 year old to pay attention to Patty Duke and her diagnosis of bipolar in the early 80s. Except I kept hearing her say over and over in interviews that it felt good that it had a name and now she could fix it. So I learned about her and what wasn’t to love. Nick at Night didn’t quite exist, but occasionally you could find a rerun of The Patty Duke Show. Miracle Worker with the amazing Anne Bancroft (who I love for so many reasons)? Amazing performances! Another Miracle Worker with my beloved Half-pint? Hell yeah! Married to Gomez Addams? But of course. Mother of Mikey in The Goonies? Love her in so many ways.


But mostly for her voice. For advocating for mental health issues. For taking the conversation out of hiding. For showing me a path when I finally got to recovery and treatment. She showed that the ugliness of mental illness didn’t have to be the only perspective. She showed me I could work, be creative, be married, have a family. Doctors actually told me I shouldn’t have children. Patty had already shown me I could


I only had half the number of her marriages, and I won’t complain about that. I found my Gomez. 😉

Please check out Sean Astin’s efforts to continue his mother’s work.


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They are stealthy.  You don’t realize they are there until they have a stronghold and you are forced to face an uphill battle in order to get them to leave.  By the time the cacophony is identified, it really is too late.  The first is always the Commentator.  The gender changes over the years, so for our purposes, we’ll use the female pronouns.  Commentator doesn’t have a name other than the descriptive title, but she is an old friend.  She seemingly doesn’t pose any threat nor any possibility of harm.  You rather like that she is back to describe your every move.  From the “extraordinary”–“J is skillfully navigating into the traffic and earns not one glare from the other drivers as she slides the car  into the middle lane…” to the purest description of boring possible–“J is scratching the right lower calf because it has an itch.”  Doesn’t matter what you are doing, she is there giving the play by play action.  You welcome her.  You know you are not alone as things in life start to feel a little less secure than usual.

But you should be afraid of Commentator.  You should run screaming from her.  While she herself poses no threat, she is the gateway to all of the others.  She opens the door and invites the others in, as if they were vampires and cannot enter without an invitation.  The others are not as verbose as her and so you do not truly notice their occasional comment or observation.  You may hear them, but you write it off to a traveling thought lingering in the filter of your brain.

Until you are finally in a very quiet location and you cannot help but realize that the cacophony has returned.  The voices a person with schizophrenia may hear over a lifetime are varied.  At least that’s been my experience over the three decades of living with it in my life.  There has been God, Satan, my father, myself, my childhood self, Barbie, among others.  And of course, the Commentator.  Once there was a very dark person, genderless, really, who said very bad things and suggested horrific “solutions”, always only self-imposed, causing harm only to myself, but horrific anyway.  That one was with me from age 17 till 19 (until I started treatment) and fortunately has never returned.

For me, the schizophrenia has always been a blessing and a curse.  I got amazing work done when I was in an active episode.  Sleep was not needed as much and there was usually a helpful voice that would tell me what to do or say when I got too confused due to the lack of sleep.  The voices often solved problems for me.  During the many years I have not been in an active episode and have studied the illness, I have gained advantages and I now better understand what’s happening when in an episode.  But at times this creates a paradox in itself because I’m deep enough into an episode to identify it but still well enough to step outside and determine, in an objective, clinical sort of way, ‘oh my, I need to do this, this, and this because I’m having an episode’.  It’s an odd place to exist.  It fortunately doesn’t happen often and doesn’t last for long.

At this point, I have been able to take the voices in stride when a little episode has hit over the years. The one episode about six years ago was not awful as I was able to readily identify it and upped my treatment to kick its arse back into place.  The voices then were really just a nuisance, but not harmful.  Obviously, I realize in the grand scheme of things, they are technically harmful as one really shouldn’t be hearing them in the first place, but relatively speaking, they didn’t do much.  The last bad episode was when I was pregnant with older son and had intentionally (and with the four doctors’ permissions) went off the medications so I could try to get pregnant.  That episode started in the second month of the pregnancy and by the third month had crippled me to point of not being able to leave the house.  But Hubby was there and took care of me and both sons during their times in my womb.  There was no episode with younger son since I had started the new treatment during the first pregnancy.

Cacophony.  What a wonderful word.  I wonder if I like it for the definition, a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds, or because it reminds me of so many other wonderful words…sarcophagus, symphony, epiphany, chaos.  Not sure.  I feel smarter when I’m in an episode, although I do have more tangential thinking patterns.  You would too if you were listening to as many people as I do then.

This reflective nature at this time about this part of my life makes sense to me…I’ve been thinking about it a lot as I reflect on younger son’s journey.  (His tic has evolved to a chest thump.  It’s cute.  He’s a little Tarzan.)  The voices are invisible.  They’re easier to hide, especially when you are used to them and know how to handle it.  It’s harder to hide thumping your chest.

Stealthy cacophony.

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