Daily Prompt: Teacher’s Pet

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.” Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

Here I am again, doing another daily prompt. In fact yesterday was the first time I ever used WordPress’s daily prompt and I like having the option of a specific “topic” ready for me to choose from. In fact I’m loving having the option to not only have a daily prompt but having the option to do todays daily prompt or a past daily prompt. Just like the daily prompt I use yesterday, today, I chose a past daily prompt.

It is an extremely difficult choice for me to pick just one teacher who has had an impact on my life because, there isn’t a teacher that I haven’t had who hasn’t made and impact on my life at one time or another. Since all my teachers have had an impact on my life, I have decided to only discuss three teachers in this particular post. Two of the three teachers happen to be two of my most favorite teachers. I have decided to use their real names due to the fact I want to give them all credit for what they have done. I know maybe that may not be a wise choice on my part but they do deserve credit even if what one teacher angers you (like it does me) they all are worthy of credit.

Before I begin telling you about the three teachers who have had the most impact on my life let me tell you a thing or two first. All through my school years I was a main streamed special education student. That means I was in “normal” classes with other kids in my grade with the exception of one subject and sometimes two subjects. The reason being is because at an early age I was diagnosed with not only ADHD but dyslexia and other reading and writing disabilities. The only subject I was not main streamed in was English and on occasion other subjects when needed.

Now that we are on the topic of both Special Education and English, lets talk about my seventh grade Special Ed English teacher, Ms. Phelps. Ms. Phelps wasn’t the best of teachers nor was she one of my favorite teachers. She was not always the most sensitive of people and unfortunately wasn’t afraid to speak her mind especially when it came to hurting a students feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I actually prefer people to speak their minds but when it could harm someone especially a child then its not always exactly the best thing to do. Ms. Phelps was getting fed up with me because she didn’t think I was putting much effort into my homework.  In all actuality, I was spending two hours a day just doing homework for her class alone. I had six other classes that I needed to do homework for (including marching/concert band). I spent three hours doing homework from my other classes and that includes me practicing my flute for an hour for band. I spent more time doing homework for class than my other classes. Since Ms. Phelps didn’t think I was putting much effort into my homework for her class she kept giving me detention which was nothing new for me since I was always in trouble. It was one of those detentions where she spoke her mind and spouted out her anger on me. She told me “You will never graduate high school much less make it through you freshman year of high school. You most likely will drop out your freshman year. You will be a high school drop-out just like your parents.” It was because of what she said is what made me determined to graduate high school and prove her wrong. If it wasn’t for those words echoing through my head, I think I wouldn’t have cared so much about graduating high school as I did. Yes, I did graduate high school and it made me feel good that I not only proved her wrong but I proved myself wrong as well. I still haven’t been able to show her my high school diploma and I’m okay with it because it doesn’t matter so much to me any more.

The next teacher, I’m about to tell you about was one that inspired me to be the best at what I was able to do despite my disabilities and had him throughout my junior high years. For me the junior high I attended was only seventh and eighth grades. Mr. Hahn was my band teacher. He had a sense a humor that related to every kid he taught. Mr. Hahn taught me how to persevere through difficult sections in a specific piece of  music which could be a potential metaphor for life. Mr. Hahn put a great deal of effort into me and helped me improve playing the flute. He taught me various things in regards to the flute as well as being able to use them in life now and not just in regards to playing the flute. Mr. Hahn’s constant encouragement, sense of humor and love for music is why I continued playing the flute through high school even though I wasn’t exactly the best flute player in the world.

This next teacher I am about to tell you about is one who encouraged me to get help for both my eating disorders as well as the depression I was in. Ms. Casey taught me Earth Science my sophomore year of high school and Biology my junior high of high school. She was also the class advisor for my graduating class. She taught me how to love science and that it was more than okay to be a woman who loves science. Not only did she help me get the help I needed for the eating disorders and mental illness, she helped me with my homework for her class(es) as well as other classes. Ms. Casey put the effort into me to make sure that I graduated high school. Ms. Casey was one of those teachers (just like Mr. Hahn) who put in extra hours to make sure all her students succeeded in school and beyond.

If it wasn’t for the above three teachers, I wouldn’t have graduated high school nor been the success I am today. They all taught me the power of determination in their own way and that once you put your mind to something, stay strong and most importantly keep the determination.

I wish I could write more on this particular post especially about Mr. Hahn and Ms. Casey, I am unable to do so because I have to go to work. I love my job and if it wasn’t for all my teachers throughout my life I would have it. Thank you to all the teacher who have taught me. Well, off to work I go. Peace out!!

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Mental Health Awarness Month: Schizophrenia

May is mental health awareness month. When I started this blog in late May of last year (2014) it was in response to how I as an advocate, am going do my part to help stomp out the stigma of mental illness. In fact, it still is the goal of this blog to educate other’s on mental illness in hopes that it will reach enough people to make a dent in the stigma that mental illness brings.  I’ve realized over the last year that I haven’t done much educating on mental illness with the exception of me blogging about my personal experience with a mental illness and how those with a mental illness are productive members of society.

With that being said, I decided that today’s educational topic will be Schizophrenia. Please keep in mind that I am not a medical professional and am unable to diagnosis people if you think you have Schizophrenia or another mental health diagnosis please seek out professional help from a doctor or mental health professional. The information I am about to share on Schizophrenia, with you is info I got from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) website at https://nami.org/.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions and relate to others. It is a complex, long-term medical illness, affecting about 1% of Americans. Although schizophrenia can occur at any age, the average age of onset tends to be in the late teens to the early 20s for men, and the late 20s to early 30s for women. It is uncommon for schizophrenia to be diagnosed in a person younger than 12 or older than 40. It is possible to live well with schizophrenia.

Symptoms

It can be difficult to diagnose schizophrenia in teens. This is because the first signs can include a change of friends, a drop in grades, sleep problems, and irritability—common and nonspecific adolescent behavior. Other factors include isolating oneself and withdrawing from others, an increase in unusual thoughts and suspicions, and a family history of psychosis. In young people who develop schizophrenia, this stage of the disorder is called the “prodromal” period.

With any condition, it’s essential to get a comprehensive medical evaluation in order to obtain the best diagnosis. For a diagnosis of schizophrenia, some of the following symptoms are present in the context of reduced functioning for a least 6 months:

Hallucinations. These include a person hearing voices, seeing things, or smelling things others can’t perceive. The hallucination is very real to the person experiencing it, and it may be very confusing for a loved one to witness. The voices in the hallucination can be critical or threatening. Voices may involve people that are known or unknown to the person hearing them.

Delusions. These are false beliefs that don’t change even when the person who holds them is presented with new ideas or facts. People who have delusions often also have problems concentrating, confused thinking, or the sense that their thoughts are blocked.

Negative symptoms are ones that diminish a person’s abilities. Negative symptoms often include being emotionally flat or speaking in a dull, disconnected way. People with the negative symptoms may be unable to start or follow through with activities, show little interest in life, or sustain relationships. Negative symptoms are sometimes confused with clinical depression.

Cognitive issues/disorganized thinking. People with the cognitive symptoms of schizophrenia often struggle to remember things, organize their thoughts or complete tasks. Commonly, people with schizophrenia have anosognosia or “lack of insight.” This means the person is unaware that he has the illness, which can make treating or working with him much more challenging.

Causes

Research suggests that schizophrenia may have several possible causes:

  • Genetics. Schizophrenia isn’t caused by just one genetic variation, but a complex interplay of genetics and environmental influences. While schizophrenia occurs in 1% of the general population, having a history of family psychosis greatly increases the risk. Schizophrenia occurs at roughly 10% of people who have a first-degree relative with the disorder, such as a parent or sibling. The highest risk occurs when an identical twin is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The unaffected twin has a roughly 50% chance of developing the disorder.
  • Environment. Exposure to viruses or malnutrition before birth, particularly in the first and second trimesters has been shown to increase the risk of schizophrenia. Inflammation or autoimmune diseases can also lead to increased immune system
  • Brain chemistry. Problems with certain brain chemicals, including neurotransmitters called dopamine and glutamate, may contribute to schizophrenia. Neurotransmitters allow brain cells to communicate with each other. Networks of neurons are likely involved as well.
  • Substance use. Some studies have suggested that taking mind-altering drugs during teen years and young adulthood can increase the risk of schizophrenia. A growing body of evidence indicates that smoking marijuana increases the risk of psychotic incidents and the risk of ongoing psychotic experiences. The younger and more frequent the use, the greater the risk. Another study has found that smoking marijuana led to earlier onset of schizophrenia and often preceded the manifestation of the illness.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing schizophrenia is not easy. Sometimes using drugs, such as methamphetamines or LSD, can cause a person to have schizophrenia-like symptoms. The difficulty of diagnosing this illness is compounded by the fact that many people who are diagnosed do not believe they have it. Lack of awareness is a common symptom of people diagnosed with schizophrenia and greatly complicates treatment.

While there is no single physical or lab test that can diagnosis schizophrenia, a health care provider who evaluates the symptoms and the course of a person’s illness over six months can help ensure a correct diagnosis. The health care provider must rule out other factors such as brain tumors, possible medical conditions and other psychiatric diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder.

To be diagnosed with schizophrenia, a person must have two or more of the following symptoms occurring persistently in the context of reduced functioning:

  • Delusions
  • Hallucinations
  • Disorganized speech
  • Disorganized or catatonic behavior
  • Negative symptoms

Delusions or hallucinations alone can often be enough to lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Identifying it as early as possible greatly improves a person’s chances of managing the illness, reducing psychotic episodes, and recovering. People who receive good care during their first psychotic episode are admitted to the hospital less often, and may require less time to control symptoms than those who don’t receive immediate help. The literature on the role of medicines early in treatment is evolving, but we do know that psychotherapy is essential.

People can describe symptoms in a variety of ways. How a person describes symptoms often depends on the cultural lens she is looking through. African Americans and Latinos are more likely to be misdiagnosed, probably due to differing cultural or religious beliefs or language barriers. Any person who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia should try to work with a health care professional that understands his or her cultural background and shares the same expectations for treatment.

Treatment

There is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed in several ways.

With medication, psychosocial rehabilitation, and family support, the symptoms of schizophrenia can be reduced. People with schizophrenia should get treatment as soon as the illness starts showing, because early detection can reduce the severity of their symptoms.

Recovery while living with schizophrenia is often seen over time, and involves a variety of factors including self-learning, peer support, school and work and finding the right supports and treatment.

Medication

Typically, a health care provider will prescribe antipsychotics to relieve symptoms of psychosis, such as delusions and hallucinations. Due to lack of awareness of having an illness and the serious side effects of medication used to treat schizophrenia, people who have been prescribed them are often hesitant to take them.

First Generation (typical) Antipsychotics

These medications can cause serious movement problems that can be short (dystonia) or long term (called tardive dyskinesia), and also muscle stiffness. Other side effects can also occur.

Second Generation (atypical) Antipsychotics

These medications are called atypical because they are less likely to block dopamine and cause movement disorders. They do, however, increase the risk of weight gain and diabetes. Changes in nutrition and exercise, and possibly medication intervention, can help address these side effects.

One unique second generation antipsychotic medication is called clozapine. It is the only FDA approved antipsychotic medication for the treatment of refractory schizophrenia and has been the only one indicated to reduce thoughts of suicide. However, it does have multiple medical risks in addition to these benefits. Read a more complete discussion of these risk and benefits.

Psychotherapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment for some people with affective disorders. With more serious conditions, including those with psychosis, additional cognitive therapy is added to basic CBT (CBTp). CBTp helps people develop coping strategies for persistent symptoms that do not respond to medicine.

Supportive psychotherapy is used to help a person process his experience and to support him in coping while living with schizophrenia. It is not designed to uncover childhood experiences or activate traumatic experiences, but is rather focused on the here and now.

Cognitive Enhancement Therapy (CET) works to promote cognitive functioning and confidence in one’s cognitive ability. CET involves a combination of computer based brain training and group sessions. This is an active area of research in the field at this time.

Psychosocial Treatments

People who engage in therapeutic interventions often see improvement, and experience greater mental stability. Psychosocial treatments enable people to compensate for or eliminate the barriers caused by their schizophrenia and learn to live successfully. If a person participates in psychosocial rehabilitation, she is more likely to continue taking their medication and less likely to relapse. Some of the more common psychosocial treatments include:

  • Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) provides comprehensive treatment for people with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. Unlike other community-based programs that connect people with mental health or other services, ACT provides highly individualized services directly to people with mental illness. Professionals work with people with schizophrenia and help them meet the challenges of daily life. ACT professionals also address problems proactively, prevent crises, and ensure medications are taken.
  • Peer support groups like NAMI Peer-to-Peer encourage people’s involvement in their recovery by helping them work on social skills with others. The Illness Management Recovery (IMR) model is an evidence-based approach that emphasizes setting goals and acquiring skills to meet those goals.

Complementary Health Approaches

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish oil, have shown some promise for treating and managing schizophrenia. Some researchers believe that omega-3 may help treat mental illness because of its ability to help replenish neurons and connections in affected areas of the brain.

Additional Concerns

Physical Health. People with schizophrenia are subject to many medical risks, including diabetes and cardiovascular problems, and also smoking and lung disease. For this reason, coordinated and active attention to medical risks is essential.

Substance Abuse. About 25% of people with schizophrenia also abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol. Substance abuse can make the treatments for schizophrenia less effective, make people less likely to follow their treatment plans, and even worsen their symptoms.

Helping Yourself

If you have schizophrenia, the condition can exert control over your thoughts, interfere with functioning and if not treated, lead to a crisis. Here are some ways to help manage your illness.

  • Manage Stress. Stress can trigger psychosis and make the symptoms of schizophrenia worse, so keeping it under control is extremely important. Know your limits, both at home and at work or school. Don’t take on more than you can handle and take time to yourself if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  • Try to get plenty of sleep. When you’re on medication, you most likely need even more sleep than the standard eight hours. Many people with schizophrenia have trouble with sleep, but lifestyle changes such as getting regular exercise and avoiding caffeine can help.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. It’s indisputable that substance abuse affects the benefits of medication and worsens symptoms. If you have a substance abuse problem, seek help.
  • Maintain connections. Having friends and family involved in your treatment plan can go a long way towards recovery. People living with schizophrenia often have a difficult time in social situations, so surrounding yourself with people who understand this can make the transition back into daily social life smoother. If you feel you can, consider joining a schizophrenia support group or getting involved with a local church, club, or other organization.

If you live with a mental health condition, learn more about managing your mental health and finding the support you need.

Helping a Family Member or Friend

Learning about psychosis and schizophrenia will help you understand what your friend or family member is experiencing and trying to cope with. Living with schizophrenia is challenging. Here are some ways you can show support:

  • Respond calmly. To your loved one, the hallucinations seem real, so it doesn’t help to say they are imaginary. Calmly explain that you see things differently. Being respectful without tolerating dangerous or inappropriate behavior.
  • Pay attention to triggers. You can help your family member or friend understand, and try to avoid, the situations that trigger his or her symptoms or cause a relapse or disrupt normal activities.
  • Help ensure medications are taken as prescribed. Many people question whether they still need the medication when they’re feeling better, or if they don’t like the side effects. Encourage your loved one to take his or her medication regularly to prevent symptoms from coming back or getting worse.
  • Understanding lack of awareness (anosognosia). Your family member or friend one may be unable to see that he or she has schizophrenia. Rather than trying to convince the person he or she has schizophrenia, you can show support by helping him or her be safe, get therapy, and take the prescribed medications.
  • Help avoid drugs or alcohol. These substances are known to worsen schizophrenia symptoms and trigger psychosis. If your loved one develops a substance use disorder, getting help is essential.

Related Conditions People with schizophrenia may have additional illnesses. These may include: Substance abuse Posttraumatic stress disorder Obsessive-compulsive disorder Major depression Successfully treating schizohprenia almost always improves these related illnesses. And successful treatment of substance abuse, PTSD or OCD usually improves the symptoms of schizophrenia.

Thank you for reading. I know today’s blog is quite long. I felt like it is necessary to give the above information to better educate myself as well as you the reader and/or follower. Please remember I am not qualified to diagnosis anyone of any physical or mental health condition. I hope to blog more about other diagnoses as well as various treatments for mental health conditions as time goes on. Well, I’m going to end this blog for now. Have a good day and Peace Out!!

Love Is A Beautiful Thing

     Love is a beautiful thing. Today, I was the Best Woman (instead of the Best Man) in one of my closest friends wedding. She got married to her long time girlfriend. They are now Wife and Wife. My friend wore a white tux with a purple vest and bowtie while her now wife wore a white wedding dress. They were both beautiful. I was in a black tux with a purple comber bun and bowtie. Even though wearing black in 86 F degree weather is quite hot, its better than wearing a dress. I’m not a big dress fan. I’m a “tom boy.” Anyway it was a beautiful wedding. The reason why my friend and her now wife chose to get married today was because of the date, 7/7/14. They not only think its lucky but they are both math teachers. They chose today because 7+7=14 or if you look at it date wise 7/7/14. They said their I dos at 7:07pm and 14 seconds. I am so happy my friend was able to get married to the woman of her dreams.

     Well, I worked this morning and it wasn’t a very good day at work. It wasn’t a good at work because I found out that one of my favorite elderly customers passed away. Her daughter came into the store this morning and told me and my co-workers. In fact I went to her 91st birthday back in May. I was told by this customer that I’m part of her family. That’s why her daughter and other children want me to give the eulogy at the funeral. I said yes. It’s going to be tough on me. Let’s get on a happier topic. I may not like my current job and it has nothing to do with death. I don’t like it because its not a career that I want to be in. Since I feel like I am in a dead in job, I’m going to review my resume’ tomorrow as well as look at jobs in the field that I want to be in. If I find a job opportunity to apply to I will not only apply but write a cover letter for that particular job.

     Speaking of a job opportunity I finally heard back for an organization I applied to, to become a volunteer. That particular organization is American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). I’m hoping things go well with becoming a Field Advocate for them. Not sure what’s in store. I’m still waiting on more information. They do a lot of work regarding suicide prevention as well as try to get laws passed to help those who struggle with mental illness. I’m now waiting to hear back from National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). I’m wanting to volunteer for them as well. In a couple of weeks I’m suppose to start training for a local Peer Support Warm Line. In all honesty, I fear that I might me taking too much on too quickly. I just want to not work a grocery store anymore. Nine years just seems way too long to be working at one and I feel like if volunteer in the mental health field then I’m more than likely to get a job as a Peer Counselor. You would think that volunteering at homeless shelter that specializes in mental illness is enough but I don’t think so. I’m hoping that I will be able to give of my time because I don’t have money to give. Plus giving of your time means much more than giving money a great deal of the time.

     Any way another thing I did was go and see my therapist. I of course got there an hour early like I do a lot of the time. While waiting to see my therapist I read A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. I’m enjoying the book immensely. Diana (my therapist) and I talked about the 5 year anniversary of the trauma I experienced. We talked about the increase PTSD symptoms and the self harm urges I’ve been having. We also discussed the minor urges regarding the eating disorders. Diana is a little concerned about the self harm urges as well as the eating disorder urges and we discussed ways on how I can continue to NOT harm myself my cutting or starving myself or binging and purging. We discussed on what skills I could do. We discussed what could help in conjunction with my DBT skills. I told her I can look over my WRAP. WRAP stands for Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Thankfully she has enough confidence in me that I wont relapse with the cutting or the eating disorders that we didn’t have to do a safety contract. Diana says that I am making “Wise mind” decisions and that I don’t have to worry about becoming Borderline again. She says I’m still a recovered Borderline because I’m far from meeting the criteria again. She tells me just as long as I am doing what I am suppose to be doing in my recovery I don’t have to worry. Plus I am far from being Borderline again or least that’s what she tells me. I am extremely fearful of becoming Borderline again. Diana keeps reassuring me that I don’t have to worry about it. She also told me that she was proud of me for all the hard work I am doing with my recovery process. Its difficult to hear someone tell me that they are proud of me but its cool to hear at the same time.(Side Note: Diana is a pseudonym for her protection and the protection of her other clients.) Oh boy its 11:00pm pacific time.

    Speaking of what time it is I better end this blog entry for now. I am a little tired. I’ve been up since 4am pacific time because of work. I hope I didn’t bore you all with this extremely long blog. Enjoy the last hour of your Monday. Oh yeah Happy 7/7/14. Goodnight and don’t let the bedbugs bite. Peace out everyone.