Gertie Asked For A Different Perspective

It has been a while since my first contribution to Gertie’s blog. Before I go on, let me re-introduce myself. I am a friend and motherly figure to Gertie. Gertie lovingly refers to me as “Mama Bear” and that is what I will go by on their blog.

As I mentioned in the introduction I have taken Gertie under my wing. Gertie so desperately needed a motherly figure that I was willing to take that on. I didn’t meet Gertie till she was 21 when she was near death due to a serious suicide attempt. Over the years Gerties attempts on her life as well as self harm behavior became less and less. One day my crew and I were shopping at the grocery store where she use to work and that is how myself and Junior slowly got to know her and befriend her. As frustrating as Gertie can be at times it has been one of my greatest pleasures in my life being able to see her grow. Grow into the person she is now.

Yes, Gertie has had her struggles recently but I really think that the support system she has created has helped a great deal. I also think that Gertie’s new job position at work has helped as well.

I hope that over time I will discuss with you what it is like to not only be part of Gertie’s support system but what it is like to be a mother of two children who have a diagnosed mental illness. I also would like to talk about my role as a firefighter and the role mental health plays on my job description and the encounters I have experienced dealing with folks with mental illness. I have a many different views of mental illness in my own personal life that I hope I can bring to Gertie’s blog. I am part of her “journey” and can give you view that she is not able to give.

As I end this post, I would like to thank you for reading. I am giving a perspective that Gertie is wanting on her blog. I am glad to be able to give that perspective. Thank you for the willingness to read my perspective and read from someone else other than the main person who write on this blog.

Mama Bear

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Daily Prompt: State of Your Year

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “State of Your Year.” How is this year shaping up so far? Write a post about your biggest challenges and achievements thus far.

It’s the third day of July and that means the year is half over. The year now being officially half over is why I decided to do this particular past daily prompt.

The year didn’t start off on the happiest of notes. If you are a regular reader and/or follower you are aware that I had miscarried a set of twins in January. It was a devastating start to the new year. I was looking forward to being a mama. Needless to say the miscarriage has had me wanting this year to end two weeks into it.

As January turned into February, I realized that I not only wanted the year to be over, I wanted to end my life. I wanted to end my life due to miscarrying. That is when I realized I needed to get help by putting myself into the hospital twice. The first time for two weeks and then a week after I was discharged had to go back in for another five days. I was disappointed in myself that I needed to be hospitalized for psych reasons because it had been nearly three and half years since my last discharge from my last psych hospitalization. The miscarriage hit me harder than a bag of bricks hitting the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Despite being hit by a bag of bricks, I realized that this particular crisis was different from the rest; I didn’t harm myself in any way. Yes, that means I didn’t attempt suicide nor self-harm. If one thing could come from the sadness of loosing a set of twins and the crisis that came after it, is that I don’t need to self harm nor do I need to go through it alone.

The major thing I have learned this year is that I am not alone and most importantly I know who is truly in my corner. Don’t get me wrong, I have known who has been in my corner for quite some time, I just fully realized on who is in my corner. I also realized that, those of who I thought were in my corner when it came to me being in a crisis weren’t able to do so, like I once thought. Now I know that it doesn’t matter how long you have known someone or how you met that person, it matters that they step up to the plate when a crisis arises.  Sometimes it’s a person you don’t necessarily expect.  An example of someone like that is my friend Susan over at https://bravelybipolar.wordpress.com/.

As the year continues on and the help of many people like Susan, my fiancé, Junior and many others, it is slowly but surely better. Yes, I still have my difficult moments but realize that the initial crisis of the miscarriage is over. It has taken quite some time for it to be over however I have accomplished the fact that I not only not harmed myself in the crisis, I was able to allow others in my life to help me in one of the most darkest hours of my life.

Looking back on my year thus far, I would say that one of my major accomplishments is continuing to live my life as I would have before miscarrying. That means, I continued on going to work, going to my volunteer job at the Warm Line and most importantly spending time with friends and select family members. I also allow myself to grieve over the loss of my children. Amongst the major accomplishment of living my everyday life in the middle of a crisis, I decided to volunteer other places.

Yes, I’m now volunteering not only at the Warm Line and the Mental Health Clubhouse I am a member of but a young adult shelter. I’m doing this because, I not only miss volunteer at the main shelter of the mental health I agency I am now employed at but I want to eventually work with young adults struggling with a mental illness. The reason being is because, I’ve been there. I was a young adult seeking treatment and felt like nobody understood because everyone else to start getting treatment till their late twenties and early thirties if not older. Volunteering at the young adult (18-25) shelter is a way to make sure I want to work with particular age group in the profession sense. What’s the worse thing that can happen? I realize its not the age group I am meant to work with and another thing to put on my résumé. So far I’m loving the fact that I am not only volunteering in a homeless shelter but volunteering with the age group that I am wanting to work with professionally.

As the year continues on, I am looking forward to what it brings professionally. I love my job as a Consumer Advocate however I want to be a Peer Support Specialist. I have been looking at Peer Specialist positions within the agency I work for as well as other agencies however I realize I am more likely to get hired on, if it is at another agency, if I have been at my current employer for at least a year. My one year anniversary at my current employer is September 8, 2015. Since my anniversary is in September, I have decided to wait to late November, early December to apply for Peer Specialist positions due to the fact that I will have been employed for an entire calendar year (January to December) by the time I find out if I get hired for a job. The longer you are at an employer the better it looks to future employers. Not only that, I also need to do a few things done to ensure I will able to get a job as a Peer. They are to get my teeth fixed as well as to get a drivers license. Yes, you read right, I don’t have a drivers license. I have always lived in area’s that have pretty good public transit. Another reason why I want to get a drivers license is because many positions require one. Not only will having a drivers license be helpful to me professionally, so will getting my teeth fixed. People do tend to look at ones smile when it comes to an interview as well as in everyday encounters and that is why I want to get them fixed. Plus it will make me feel better about myself.

Overall, I am feeling better about myself as 2015 continues. Yes, it has not been the best of years so far however, I am going to make sure it ends on a higher note than it did when it started or at least try. We all know that there are things beyond our control. The year may have started badly but I know as it continues, I am making sure there are positives in it. One way I am making it positive besides professionally is by hanging out with awesome people. That is what I am about to do after I end this particular post. I do apologize for it being so long. I hope to blog again tomorrow for the 4th of July. If I am unable to do so, have a Happy 4th of July. Be safe and Peace Out!!!

Daily Prompt: Thank You

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Thank You.” The internet is full of rants. Help tip the balance: today, simply be thankful for something (or someone).

As I was searching through the past daily prompts today, I came a crossed this daily prompt. I thought it would be a good one to do just because I have a lot to be thankful for.

First things first I am thankful for my dad. There are so many reasons I am thankful for my dad. Granted he may not have won the father of the year but I’m okay with that. My dad had to take on the role of mom when my own mother abandoned the both of us in the middle of the night. He not only raised me (with the help of my grandparents) in the 80’s and 90’s but showed me what it meant to persevere despite his developmental delays, Traumatic Brain Injury (TPI), mental illness and alcoholism. Most importantly, my dad showed me what recovery looked like. He showed that recovery isn’t an easy process but is well worth it. He also taught me that the road to recovery is uniquely individualized to each person.

Secondly, I am thankful for my grandparents for helping my dad raise me. I was not the easiest of children to raise especially when I was a teenager dealing with an eating disorder, mental illness and self-harm issues. My grandparents weren’t perfect but at least I know they tried to the best of their abilities and most importantly they love me with all their heart.

Another person I am thankful for is my fiancé, Junior. I am thankful for Junior for many different reasons. I am extremely thankful that he not only chose to ask me out and date me but asked me to marry him. The reason being is because he knew what he was getting into when we started dating. He knew how difficult it could and can be with my mental illness and that didn’t scare him. I thankful for Junior’s love for me and his encouragement with my recovery.

I have yet another person I am thankful for. This person has played a significant role in my recovery and am forever grateful to her for it. The person is my own therapist, Diana. (Side Note: Diana is a pseudonym to protect her, her family as well as her past, current and future clients.) Diana has been an incredibly formable person for me in my recovery. She has been in my corner, encouraging me, challenged me (when needed), listening to me and most importantly believing me when I tell her stuff that happened to me as a child. Diana has helped me grow as a person since she is a person who believes that recovery is possible despite how differently it looks to each person.

Last but not least I am thankful for my recovery with my mental illness as well as my eating disorders. I am thankful for my recovery because I am able to enjoy my life despite what difficulties I encounter. If I wasn’t in recovery I wouldn’t haven’t been able to get my certification as a Peer Support Specialist much less have my current job as a Consumer Advocate. I also wouldn’t be able to volunteer at the Warm Line or the young adult homeless shelter I just started volunteering at. Being in recovery means that I am now living a life worth living.

A life worth living also means finding out what you enjoy. That what I am going to do now. I am going to go and enjoy this beautiful summer day. I am going to go and eat at my favorite restaurant on the water front. Yes, that means I am ending this blog post for now. Peace out and enjoy your day.

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!!

107 Questions With 107 Answers

I got the idea for this post from another blog, which I of course follow. Thank you Marci over at http://marcimentalhealthmore.com/  It means a great deal to be able to share ideas (and sometimes even still them with permission of course) with other bloggers. Yes, I did add, change not include some questions so I could make it geared more to my blog. .

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging for two reasons: 1) to educate those who don’t have a mental illness in hope to lessen the stigma that goes along with it. 2) to show others who do struggle with mental illness that recovery is possible and there is hope.

2. How did you come up with the title of your blog?

I came up with the title, Gertie’s Journey because Gertie is my nickname and I would be discussing my journey along the way.

3. Why not use your real name in your title?

I originally didn’t use my real name because of the stigma that goes with having a mental illness. I now don’t use my real name because I work in the mental health field and need to protect my privacy.

4. Does that mean you have a mental illness?

Yes!!

5. What are your diagnoses?

As of right now my diagnoses are Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), PTSD, OCD and ADHD. So, I’m an Alphabet Soup.  At one point in time I was diagnosed  with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I no longer meet the criteria of BPD and consider myself a Recovered Borderline.

6. Do you consider yourself in recovery?

Yup, I do!!!

7. What do you do to stay in recovery?

Most importantly, I make sure I see my therapist and psychiatric nurse practitioner (ARNP) on the regular basis. I take my meds as prescribed daily. I make sure I go about my regular routine even if I’m struggling. I exercise on the regular basis.

8. How are you, really?

Overall, I am doing pretty good despite having high anxiety due to PTSD symptoms.

9. How are you feeling right now? What are you thinking about?

Umm….I think I just answered this. If you can’t remember go back to the previous question (as I say sarcastically). I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for dinner. I’m also thinking about working on scrapbooks I’m making for people for their holiday gifts. Yes, I know the holidays are six months away.

10. What is your favorite color?

Purple

11. What is your favorite food?

Mac & Cheese, Strawberries, Mexican Food

12. What is your favorite dessert?

Strawberry short cake and peach cobbler

13. How old are you?

Somewhere between 30 and 39. (Said sarcastically) Honestly, I am in my mid-30’s.

14.  What have you learned today?

I learned about Buddhism and meditation from a book I am reading about Buddhism.

15. What do you do?

I am a Consumer Advocate in a supportive housing program at local mental health agency.

16. What are some of your favorite books?

Enders Game by Orson Scott Card; The Stand by Stephen King and J.A Jance books. I also like many poems by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes and Emily Dickenson

17. Who are some of your favorite authors?

Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, J.A Jance, Emily Dickenson, Langston Hughes and Maya Angelou

18. What are some of your favorite movies?

BIG, Speed, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, comedies, horror, and many movies Robin Williams is in.

19. Who are some of your favorite actors?

Robin Williams, Winona Ryder, Betty White, and Will Smith

20. What kind of music are you into?

I like 80’s and 90’s music and I also like Punk Rock, Grunge, and alternative.

21. Who are some of your favorite musicians?

Nirvana, Tori Amos, K.D. Lang, Kurt Cobian, Amy Grant, Tears for Fears, Journey, Queen, AC DC, and I can continue on my favorite musicians but wont.

22. If you’re going to write a book, what would it be about?

It would be memoir of my life with a mental illness and my recovery.

23. What’s the scariest thing you have ever done?

I think it would have to be starting my recovery with both the eating disorders and my mental health diagnoses.

24. What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Graduating high school, getting my peer specialist certification and being in recover with my mental illness.

25. How did you meet your fiancé?

I don’t remember meeting my fiancé but will tell you how we met. We first met when I had attempted suicide and one of my housemates found me unresponsive and called 911. He was one of the firefighters on duty who responded to the call.

26. Do you have any children?

Sadly, no

27. Have you thought about fostering or adopting?

Yup, Junior and myself want to do foster care in hope of adopting the foster child/ren.

28. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be a teacher.

29. What profession are you currently in?

I am in the mental health field.

30. How did you get into your profession?

I got into the field because I have my own mental health issues and want to be an example of what recovery looks like. Plus, I have a peer specialist certification.

31. Would you recommend your profession to other people? Why / Why not?

Honestly, it depends who the person would be because not everyone is fit to work in the mental health field.

32. What do you do for fun?

Camp, hike, rollerblade, walk, read, blog, watch movies, do jigsaw puzzles, do Sudoku puzzles, scrapbook, go to sporting events especially baseball games, going to concerts, listening to music, hang out with friends and select family members, and volunteer.

33. Do you like traveling?

I love it.

34. If you could visit any country in the world, where would you go and why?

Its a tie between Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. I would like to go to Ireland because I am half Irish and its part of my heritage. I want to go to Australia and New Zealand because I learned about it summer school between the 3rd and 4th grades and grew fascinated with both countries.

35. Who are some people you’d like to meet someday?

President Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and Sigmund Freud

36. If you could go back in history, who would you like to meet?

Refer to the previous question with the exception of President Obama since he is still alive.

37. If someone asked you to give them a random piece of advice, what would you say?

The future belong to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Eleanor Roosevelt

38. What’s one of your favorite habits you have?

Going for a daily walk listening to music.

39. What are some things that make you really happy?

Sunny days, humor, my brother, my fiancé, nature, water, and my job

40. What are some things that make you really sad?

My miscarriages, most of my childhood, and how I have treated people in the height of my mental illness.

41. What are some things that scare you?

My PTSD symptoms I deal with on the daily basis. The mental health symptoms I deal with when I’m in crisis.

42. Do you like to plan things out in detail or be spontaneous?

I like both planning things and out and being spontaneous.

43. Are you a religious person?

No but I do consider myself Spiritual. I am on a Spiritual journey and looking into various faiths at this particular stage in my life.

44. Would you rather live in the country or in the city?

I am a city person. I love living in the city.

45. What was your life like growing up?

It wasn’t the best of childhoods.

46. What were you like in high school?

Depends on who you ask.

47. Do you have any brothers or sisters? How many?

Yes, I do. I have one half brother.

48. What’s your favorite part about today, so far?

The sunny weather, the strawberry shortcake I had and reading about Buddhism.

49. Who in your life has influenced you the most? How did they do it?

I’ve had many people who have influenced my life throughout my life and how those people did it is as unique as they are as people.

50. Have you ever tried sushi? (Did you like it?)

No, I have not tried sushi and never plan on trying it.

51. Do you like spicy food?

The spicier the better!!!!

52. How do you like your steak cooked?

Some pink but not a lot of pink.

53. If you were a type of animal, what would you be and why?

I think I would like to be an Orca because they are beautiful, intelligent animals and they get to be in the water all day.

54. What’s one of the strangest things you’ve ever done?

What are you talking about? Everything I do is strange because I am strange.

55. What kind of vacations do you like?

I love camping and any vacation I can learn something new.

56. What are some of your major goals in life?

To continue on my journey of recovery with mental illness.

57. What are some of your smaller goals in life?

To update my résumé and apply for peer support specialist jobs.

58. What do you like least about yourself?

The scars on my arms, legs and torso due to when I use to self harm.

59. What embarrasses you?

My speech impediment especially the stuttering (Its pretty much under control now but it acts up when I am under stress), being in little kid mode and being in a dissociated state.

60. If you could try out any job for a day, what would you like to try?

Being a psychiatrist.

61. What’s your earliest memory?

When I was three and my mom abandoning me.

62. What’s the best decision you ever made?

Being in recovery and choosing to stay in recovery. Trusting my gut with being in a romantic relationship with my fiancé, Junior.

63. Who’s your best / closest friend?

My fiancé, and three people I grew up with and/or went to high school with.

64. What do you think people think of you?

I don’t want to think what others think of me.

65. What were your grades like in school?

They weren’t the best in the world, mainly because of learning disabilities and/or mental health issues.

66. If you could learn one random skill, what would you learn?

To learn American Sign Language (ASL), Spanish and German.

67. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

I’m a little of both.

68. Have you ever taken a personality test? (How did the results turn out?)

Honestly, I’m not sure because, I’ve I had so many different test throughout my life that they all kind of run together. I must have if I was diagnosed for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I am really grateful I no longer meet the criteria for Borderline.

69. Do you enjoy the particular sexual pose of what the number of this question is?

Very much so!!!!!

70. What’s the first thing you notice about people?

I notice both a persons eyes and smile.

71. Do you think people can control their own destiny?

To a degree, yes.

72. Do you think all people are equally valuable, or do you think some people in certain situations might be more valuable than others (say, a severely mentally ill patient vs. a doctor who could potentially save hundreds of lives)?

Define value!!

73. Do you think people are basically bad or basically good?

This is a difficult question for me to answer due to the fact that there are many factors to consider.

74. Do you think morals are universal or relative to the beliefs, traditions, and practices of individuals or groups?

I think it I need to know more before I could answer this question.

75. Do you think God exists?

Another complicated question. Yes, I do think that there is a spiritual being out there. I just don’t know who he, she or they are.

76. Do you think any kind of afterlife exists?

Yup, I am positive there is an afterlife.

77. Do you vote? Why / Why not? If you do vote, how do you usually vote?

Yes, I vote and I don’t disclose how I vote.

78. Do you think gay people choose to be gay? Do you think straight people choose to be straight?

I don’t think we choose our sexual orientation.

79. Is torture ever a good option? If no, why not? If yes, when?

Torture is NEVER a good option for any reason.

80. Would you kill an innocent person if you thought it might mean saving a dozen other people?

I would never kill an innocent person.

81. What’s the most money you’ve ever given away?

I rather not disclose. The amount I give away to a charity or person is between me and the charity or person.

82. What’s the biggest personal change you’ve ever made?

Choosing to be in recovery.

83. What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

I’ve done many stupid things that I cant just name one thing.

84. What do you think would be one of the best steps we could take toward ending poverty around the world?

This is a loaded question and difficult to answer. It is something I will have to ponder about.

85. What do you think we could do to best improve the education system?

Pay teachers more, smaller class sizes and bring back fine and preforming arts.

86. In general, what do you think about art?

I love it.

87. What are some of your favorite websites?

Any website that I am able to learn something on.

88. What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?

That my ex-step dad wasn’t abusing me when he actually was.

89. What’s something most people don’t know about you?

I cry myself to sleep because I miss the babies I lost through miscarriages.

90. What’s something you wish everyone knew about you?

I love being able to help others.

91. What are some of the first things you do in the morning?

Go to the bathroom, take a shower, eat and take my meds.

92. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to you?

Loosing two sets of twins within 14 months of each other due to miscarriage.

93. Do you cry easily?

No.

94. How do you feel about public speaking?

I hate it.

95. Do you like to talk on the phone?

Its better than texting.

96. How many emails do you get each week, roughly?

Depends what account. I have a work email, a personal email, a professional email and an email for this blog.

97. If someone were to make a movie about your life, who would you hope would play you?

I wouldn’t want my life made into a movie so I hope nobody plays me.

98. What’s one of your favorite questions to ask new friends or to get a conversation going?

It depends on the situation I am in.

99. Would you ever sky dive or bungee jump?

I have always wanted to sky dive. When I was younger I wanted to bungee jump but as I get older it becomes less appealing.

100. Have you ever been in a fist fight?

Yup, in junior high.

101. What’s the best prank you’ve ever pulled?

My senior prank in high school.

102. What did you do on your 16th birthday?

My friends had a surprise party for me.

103. What do you think is one of the most undervalued professions right now?

Teaching and any profession in the mental health field.

104. How would you explain your basic life philosophy?

When I look back on my life I rather regret the things I do than the things I don’t do.

105. Would you rather be hated or forgotten?

Neither

106. If you knew you would die tomorrow, would you feel cheated today?

I don’t want to know when I am going to die.

107. Now, how do you honestly feel after answering all these questions?

Exhausted but overall still doing well.

Awe-Inspiring Growth Spurts In Recovery

It’s been a few weeks since my last blog. Unfortunately, not only have I been busy with life, I have had writers block. With much discussion with both supportive and inspiring people in my life, it finally occurred to me on what to write about. The topic I desire to convey to you is growth spurts in respects with continued recovery with mental illness.

Despite some difficulties over the last few months I’ve come to the conclusion that my recovery is constantly changing and evolving. Evolving into who knows what, but whatever it is I know it has to be valuable and beyond what words can describe. It has been my experience that whenever I experience some challenges or difficulties along the way in regards to my recovery, it usually means that I am about to have a growth spurt.

As many of us know from childhood, growth spurts can be quite painful. Growth spurts are usually an awe-inspiring moment once the growth spurt is complete or nearly complete. As my current growth spurt comes to an end (or at least I think it is), I can’t help but think how it has reshaped who I am and what I am to accomplish before the next growth spurt.

Before, I continue let me explain what I consider a growth spurt in regards to recovery or at least to my recovery. A growth spurt to me in my recovery is when I learn something. Something that needs to be learned and sometimes that learning something involves being in a crisis.

Unforantenly, for me the current growth spurt that is finally coming to an end, involved me being in crisis. An intensely painful crisis at that. A crisis that made me acutely aware of who I am and how far I have come in my recovery as well as knowing who is truly in my corner and who I am able to count on.

Knowing who is in my corner and who I am able to count on has helped me a great deal. If it wasn’t for those in my corner, I would have not learned as much as I have during this current growth spurt because they were there for me when I needed them the most (and they still are) when I was (and still am)  grieving  over the loss of miscarry twins. Nothing hurts more than loosing a child or in my case a set of twins.

Acutely aware, that loosing the pregnancy is what put me into a mental health crisis makes it that much more difficult recover from for me. I am also aware that I have I have the skills, the people in my life to help me when necessary and most importantly hope that I did not have in the height of my struggles with the mental illness’s I suffer with.

Over the years, I have come to recognize that regardless of what the cause of a crisis, I can make certain that its a growth spurt that has a positive learning experience attached to it. I have learned a considerably good amount of how others deal (or don’t deal) when someone has a crisis when it involves the loss of a child. Unfortunately, discussing a miscarriage (and still born babies) is quite taboo which makes the grieving process that much more difficult. The one thing that I have learned and still am learning that its not only okay to talk about the miscarriage but to cry over the loss of my children. Yes, I still struggle a great deal with not only the miscarriage I had in January of this year (2015) but the miscarriage I had in November of 2103 however that doesn’t mean I stop living my life.

The living life as I slowly recover from my crisis due to a devastating life event is what is awe-inspiring to me. The reason being is because the farther apart my crisis’s are, the more I realize that I want to be involved with life despite the pain and/or chaos the crisis brings. Having this awe-inspiring moment in my recovery has been a work in process. In fact it’s been years in the making with mounds of difficult yet challenging work and effort on my part (as well as many clinicians doing their part).

If I had not put in so much effort into my recovery with the help of other, I wouldn’t be working at all especially at job I absolutely love. Being a peer support specialist is all about being living proof that recovery is possible. Another way, I am able to show that recovery is possible is volunteering on the Warm Line. My clients at work as well the callers on the Warm Line inspire me a great deal. They inspire me to keep going  and continue with my recovery even though they are unaware of it.

I am beyond grateful for having this awe-inspiring growth spurt in my recovery and being able to share it with you fine folks out there in this wonderful world of ours. Thank you so much for allowing be share my recovery with you. I’m going to call it a night a spend some time with my wonderful partner, Junior. Good night and don’t let the bed bugs bite. Peace Out!!!

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!!