Lil Gertie’s First Year In Her Forever Home

Good Afternoon, World!!! Today, marks it one years since I adopted my cat, Lil Gertie. It is difficult to wrap my head around on how fast this year went and what my life would be like if I didn’t adopt her. She has been a major support for me and has helped me a great more than I could ever have imagined.

On a side note, I saw my psychiatric nurse practitioner. We discussed the normal shit that we usually do and then we got on the topic of how meds can only help so much. She was surprised by me saying that meds can only help so much because she has clients who think meds are the only things that help. When then discussed what things help me in congestion to my meds. We discussed various things that help me right along with my meds. Some of which to find out she enjoys as well.

I don’t have much more to say. I want to thank you for reading my blog. It is greatly appreciated from my end of things. Again, thank so very much for reading my blog. I hope everyone has a great work week. Peace Out, World!!!

Been In & Out of Dissociation Since Last Post

Good Morning, World!!! I remember post my blog however I do not remember most everything else due to dissociation. I am not a big fan of dissociation. In fact I think I am partially dissociating at the moment. I wish I wasn’t starting to dissociate again as I see my psychiatrist later this morning and then have appointments with my therapist and job coach (employment specialist) in early afternoon. I really want be “all there” when I am attending all my appointments today.

I don’t think I got much sleep last night as I am falling asleep as I write this post. Another clue that I din’t get much sleep last night is the picture I am coloring. Plus, the music I am listening to on Spotify is from my “Childhood Memories” playlist has a quarter of the list to play and that list is just slightly over twenty two hours of music. I am grateful for the music and the art that I have been coloring been coloring because if wasn’t for the music or art, I think I could have self harmed. No, I am not risk of self harming.

I am glad that I will be seeing my psychiatrist and therapist today. I am sure they both will have some concerns of what has been going on for a few weeks now. I just don’t like dissociation. I am also going to be taking my art work with me. Specifically, my coloring stuff. I, of course always carry some form of music with me.

I don’t have much more to say. Thank you for reading my blog. It is greatly appreciated from my end of things. I hope to blog again later today. Have a great day everyone and enjoy the nice sunny weather like I will here in Seattle. Peace Out, World!!!

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!!

Stuffing Equals Explosion

     Hello! Its another Monday and it was a tough one. If you regularly read my blog or follow it you are aware that I work Monday mornings and see my therapist in the afternoons. Work went as well as can be expected when you are dealing with the public.

     The rough part of the day came when I saw my therapist Diana. When Diana came out to get me she asked me to wait so she could refill her coffee then we had to wait for the room she signed up for because it was still being used. I got frustrated because we started late again. I was already frustrated that last Wednesday my appointment with my shrink started ten minutes late and lasted only ten minutes when its suppose to last 20 minutes. I told Diana that I didn’t have the patients to wait for our session to start late again. See the last two month our sessions had been starting late and some of them being cut short by five to ten minutes and I finally had it. I tend to stuff things to where I explode. If I explode I end up doing one of two things. I either cut myself (which I DID NOT DO) or get angry and yell at the person if I feel safe with that particular person. That’s what I did. Once we finally got into the room I went off on her. When I said I went off, I started to cry and then I ended up yelling. Diana calmly told me to stop yelling and I eventually did after about 7 or 8 minutes. To tell you the truth I am extremely ashamed that I yelled at Diana. Diana realized that I had been stuffing this anger regarding starting our sessions late and felt bad that she didn’t realize how bad it bothered me when I briefly brought it up a few weeks ago. Diana acknowledged that it took a great deal of strength on my part to not cut in-between sessions and to be able to feel safe enough with her that I could yell at her. We discussed how we could fix starting on time and how some things are beyond ones control. We also discussed how I felt that I and my time were not being respected. Most importantly we discussed how my yelling could be considered Borderline behavior. We discussed how I’m fighting with myself internally on not giving up on myself and making sure the Borderline doesn’t appear again. More or less it old Gertie verses Gertie in recovery. I don’t want to be old Gertie or “crazy” Gertie. I have worked so hard to not meet the criteria for Borderline that its a fight against myself to continue to not meet the criteria. Diana assured me that this one “explosion” is not  going to qualify  me to meet the criteria for Borderline. It will take a lot more to meet the criteria for Borderline again. Honestly, I am grateful that we were able to talk it out so I don’t hold any resentment toward her. We have bee working together for five and half years and she has helped a great deal in my recovery process. With all that being said our session ended a lot better than it started.

    On the bus ride home I read a Wonder Woman graphic novel. For some reason when I have a rough moment with my anger I tend to read Wonder Woman. Maybe its because reading Wonder Woman gets me out of my own head. Maybe it chills me out.

    When I got home I contacted a friend to see if she would have time tomorrow or Wednesday to help me write a cover letter for a Consumer Aide position. It’s not exactly what I am looking for but it is a step in the right direction to become a Peer Support Specialist. She said she would be more than willing to help me.

   After talking to my friend regarding helping me with a cover letter I came to my boyfriends place where he made me dinner. He barbequed some hamburgers and put lots of cheddar cheese on them.  We also had strawberry short cake for dessert. Now we are watching the 10 o’clock news as I blog and he emails a friend of his.

    I should get going. I just wanted to let you all know that I still struggle a bit from time to time. I just want to show those really struggling with a mental illness that recovery is possible and there is hope. Well have a good rest of your Monday. I hope to blog again tomorrow. Peace out and good night.

It’s A Beautiful Sunny Wednesday!!!

     It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. So beautiful that my boyfriend and I went rollerblading around a lake. In fact the lake is a local park. We went around the lake twice and each time is 3.3 miles so that equals 6.6 miles. All I can say is that I got my exercise in today. We also had a picnic at this park. We had fried chicken, macaroni salad and lemonade. It was all very tasty. All I know is I am tired now. I’ve had a busy day.

     I started out the day by going to see my shrink. My shrink in not a psychiatrist, he is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner. I discussed with him about the increased PTSD symptoms due to the 5 year anniversary of a trauma and how it triggered eating disorder urges and self harm urges. He of coursed asked if I acted on any of those urges and I said no because I didn’t act on those urges. He has a good since of humor and I like that. I’ve only been working with him for a little of a year when my last psychiatric nurse practitioner retired. I had worked with her for 7 years and grew to trust her. I specifically asked my therapist for a male prescriber because I usually only work with women when it comes to doctors and mental health stuff due to my trauma history. Diana my therapist was happy to oblige to my request and new who to suggest and thankfully he had room for another client. Anyway my shrink and I discussed if we needed to change meds or if a med increase needed to happen and thankfully he agreed with me that neither needed to happen. Like I said my shrink has a great sense of humor and it turns out that we have a similar sense of humor.

    After I saw my shrink I went to my volunteer job. I love my volunteer job. Like I’ve said in previous blog post, I volunteer at local homeless shelter that specializes in Mental Illness and Co-Occurring Disorders. The clients there are always so appreciative of everything they get. Well most of the clients are. I enjoy my volunteer job.

   When I get back from my volunteer job that’s when my boyfriend and I went and had our picnic in the park and rollerbladed around the lake in the park twice. We got back to his place in time to watch the news. The big topic is still the legalization of being able to sell pot in my state. It became legal yesterday. In fact it even made NBC’s Nightly news  again tonight. That makes two nights in a row. I just want them to not make a big deal about it. I just don’t care. I don’t smoke the crap but that’s me.

    Anyway my boyfriend is finding it difficult to pick out a movie to watch. I’m thinking I might just pick one out before his head explodes. I’m thinking a comedy is in order. I love comedies.

    I should get going because my boyfriend and I want to watch a movie. I hope you all enjoy the rest of your Wednesday. Enjoy the nice warm weather everyone. Peace out and don’t get sun burned.