Monday, February 29, 2016

Assumptions about schizophrenia.

Two important take-aways from this list of important points about those living with schizophrenia:
Numerous studies have shown that people with major mental illnesses are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than the perpetrators.
 It's a huge misconception that schizophrenia is the same as dissociative identity disorder. These are two different disorders, but thanks to Hollywood and the media, people have come to believe that schizophrenia and dissociative identity disorder are the same thing. While schizophrenia in Latin means "of two minds," it does not mean there are two different personalities inside of us. We have psychosis. This means that the main facet of schizophrenia is the belief that we see or hear or experience things that are not there. Whether it's a delusion or a hallucination or paranoia, the main thing is that we are experiencing something which isn’t real. Sometimes we don’t know this fact and, because of that, we tend to get confused about things.
Check it out on Psychology Today.

You get a ribbon!

Great ribbons by The Heirloom Tomatos.

The pictures are bad, but the work/sentiment is good!

Suicide and insurance coverage.

Amidst all the Oscar talk on the radio this morning (Gaga should have won for best song), CBC News mentioned a possible change coming to the insurance coverage and legitimacy perception of suicide.

They had this piece from 2015, Suicide attempts and insurance: Why you might not be covered.

In a more recent piece, Insurance companies reconsider 'dated' policies for suicide attempts, the faulty logic of "avoidable" injury is called out.

The article quotes Mark Warder, a man whose America hospital bill was not covered due to the insurance companies policy that rejects suicide, and instead focuses only on depression to a certain point. After going public he very aptly stated:
Let's face it, most people if they've gone through this and [the insurance claim] gets turned down, they don't have the motivation to fight it.
 Preach. The piece goes on to quote Bill Wilkerson, a former insurance insider:
It's one of those hangovers from an ancient time of stigmatizing mental illness and viewing the destruction of someone under those circumstances as either a crime or a sin when it is neither.
The act of "committing suicide" was a crime in Canada until 1972.
There is a lot of work to be done in terms of insurance and access. I worry that this news coverage will go away and insurance companies will be quick to sweep it under the rug.

I plan on printing out the article and mailing it to my insurer and the HR deparment where I work.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Process Of Getting Better Can Really Suck.

Turns out today is a Katie Klabusich day.

I had put aside The Process Of Getting Better Can Really Suck by Katie Klabusich because I knew I wanted to give it my full attention.

I just really relate to much of Katie's experience:
The reason is simple: I will fucking lose it if I don’t acknowledge out loud that some things inherently suck. Figuring out what kind of care you need, accessing said care, and getting that care is exhausting. And at the point of getting care, you are literally just getting started. Yes, there’s some relief at having survived the no-help-available portion of the ordeal, but you haven’t actually started unpacking or treating anything yet. And, well, that sucks. 
And in fact, many things about the process of getting to where I am right now—seeking second-line treatment 17 months after beginning a care plan—sucked quite a bit.
I mean, isn't what this blog has been about? Sure, it's been an exercise in writing, and in combating my internalised nature, but it's also been about the frustration of it. How many doctors have I seen? How many free services have I tried to access? How many of those experiences were total shit shows?

Before having a family doctor, I had to tell my story, over and over again. New doctors. New therapists. New counsellors. Some eager to help. Most over-worked and seemingly zoned-out. It seems like writing it out seemed like a helpful exercise if not a logical tool. I'm not the greatest when it comes to memory. I don't remember most of my 20's. If that's continues to be my case, at least I'll have some kind of written record.

It can be easily forgotten, all of the work I've done. All I have to do is click on the access label and I'm quickly wincing/remembering it all.

Lately, a lot of my worry has been around work, money, job stability and my lack of ambition. She touches on that too, since working to live also means asking yourself if you can afford the downtime, or the therapy, or that possibly helpful class or workshop. How about rent? Groceries? A fucking bus pass?

Yes, things have been better. My medication is better. I have a family doctor.

I am however, still living pay-check to pay-check, and do not have a therapist.

It is so much work, it is exhausting, and it does really fucking suck sometimes. There's power in allowing yourself to say that out loud, and also allowing those you know who are in pain to say it too. 

Dear Bystander, The Unsolicited Advice Has Got To Stop.

The Establishment has a great piece up, Dear Bystander, The Unsolicited Advice Has Got To Stop.

The piece, by Katie Klabusich hits the nail on the head regarding unsolicited advice, patronizing tones and unhelpful commentary.

Interesting statistical precision:
Statistically—because 18.5% of us are dealing with a mental health issue at any given time according to the National Institute of Mental Health—you may have even had an extended period where you struggled with a life-disrupting condition. Only 4.2% (approximately 10 million) of us over the age of 18, however, have a long-term illness. Time, Newsweek, et al can run headlines about the one-in-five Americans with a mental illness all they want; those statistics include temporary as well as chronic conditions.
In short: your experience with meds and/or therapy and/or a temporary debilitating condition should aid you in cultivating empathy, but should not teach you the lesson that you totes know how fix all the neuroatypical, disabled, and chronically ill folks around you.
 I could basically quote the whole thing. Check out Katie's article.

Monday, February 22, 2016

21 Tweets About Depression That Just Might Make You Laugh.

Ah Buzzfeed lists, a testament to our ever-decreasing attention spans.

21 Tweets About Depression That Just Might Make You Laugh.

Well, did you laugh?

I like this one:
Hardy-har! Get it? Cause it's FOREVER.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Young Minds Matter.

Huffington Post has a special theme going on with Young Lives Matter, a series of pieces regarding mental health in children. It seems to be UK lead, but I've seen North American sources with the hashtag pop up yesterday.

There's been very little about children's mental health that's crossed my path. This is great for all sorts of reasons. First, it'll help parents talk to their kids. It'll help kids get help. But maybe more abstractly, it'll also change the future for a lot of adults, who would otherwise live in unnecessary pain. If coping strategies and help can be accessed as children, it'll save a lot of lives.

I also hope that introducing the language of self-care, and mental health awareness to children and schools will help the overall culture of mental health.

The above art work is by my nephew. He painted a two-sided wooden lion, which I've since kept. One side was sad. I thought it was beautiful, but it was also painful to see. I don't know if he'll grow up to have any mental health struggles, but he's in my family, which means he does have a predisposition to it.

I would hate for him to live through what I've been through. His being gendered as male also means he's less likely to talk about his emotions, his sexuality, and feelings related to his masculinity. Males are also higher risks of substance abuse, violence and suicide.

So, for now, I'll try and keep talking to him and doing art projects with him and his brother.

Art helps. Love helps. Hugs help.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Crybaby Learns to Swim.

I laughed entirely too hard at this. I kind of lost it at one point. Link to the actual Youtube video and read some of the comments. The seal sounds like a grumpy mix of Home Simpson whining and one of those yelling goats. It sounds like a schlubby, annoyed, shitty human man.


Abraham Maslow.

I looked up Maslow after being poked by this quote. Known for Maslow's hierarchy of needs, he was a member of the "positive psychology" school of thought, which focuses on the "positive" rather than the "negative" side of psychology.

Though I understand the value of positive psychology in some instances, generally I find it patronizing. It also further stigmatizes and belittles mental illness.

When applied to personal habits, or personal growth (as it would relate to Maslow's hierarchy) I can see how questioning our choices and understanding the possibility for change can be really powerful.

Sometimes I'll do something seemingly banal - I'll take a walk, take a different route, meet a friend for coffee unexpectedly - and I surprise myself in that moment, and in reflecting on it afterwards. I think to myself, well, that was nice. Surprisingly nice. I am a creature of habit. Of taking my small comforts where I can. I am also my own worst enemy, and getting outside of myself is often a welcome break.

It's hard to stay awake to that. It takes so much energy.

Self Compassion by The School of Life.

Mental health and maternal health.

Broadly has a piece up called When New Moms Die from Mental Health Issues, We Are 'Failing as a Society,' not the greatest title, but it's all there.

The article discuses postpartum psychosis - something that affects 1 in 1,000 mothers. I'd never heard of the disorder, having mostly heard of postpartum depression. Postpartum psychosis can be severe and the examples given in the article are pretty terrifying. 
A study published in the Journal of Women's Health explains that postpartum psychosis usually occurs shortly after childbirth and "is marked by symptoms of mood lability [mood swings], cognitive disorganization, delusional beliefs, and hallucinations." Treatments for postpartum psychosis include therapy and antipsychotics.
The article goes on to site a study that Massachusetts General Hospital's Center for Women's Mental Health study that says 85% of women will suffer "some type of mood disturbance." They add that the New York State Department of Health reports up to 20% of women developing perinatal depression.

It ends with a pretty powerful quote by Jamie Zahlaway Belsito, the director of the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health:
Mental health needs to be part of the overall conversation about maternal health. Not only do OB/GYNs need to make sure that a mother is physically healthy—that she's exercising, etc.—but that she's feeling healthy, on a holistic level. And if she's not, OB/GYNs need to be there to reassure mothers that whatever they're feeling—whatever 'bad' thoughts they're having—are normal. You're not a bad mom because you're dealing with mental health issues.
This needs to be destigmatized, and this bill could help do this. Mental health should be openly discussed. It's part of the process of birth. If we see one more mother die because of an undiagnosed mental health crisis, we are failing as a society.
Take a look at the article. I have a few friends who have had babies recently. We talk about how they're feeling, and they both have present, supportive partners, so I feel that they're stable, but I know mental health struggles well enough to know that doesn't necessarily mean anything. I'm going to e-mail them the article, with a little preface that it's important stuff to know, and to talk openly about. Is that weird?

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Sweet, beautiful cards by Laura George.

Both by Laura George. They're very sweet.

I wish I had designed them! They're on-point!

When the Hospital Fires the Bullet.

The New York Times published a piece last week while I was on holiday in Victoria. I e-mailed myself the piece to make sure I read it when I returned to my world. When the Hospital Fires the Bullet discusses the way which those in need of mental health services are often faced with systems that ignore their mental health needs and are faced with violence.

The article focuses on 26 year-old Alan Pean, who was shot while seeking treatment for bi-polar disorder. The violence Alan faces is by no means an anomaly:
The same day Mr. Pean was shot, a patient with mental health problems was shot by an off-duty police officer working security at a hospital in Garfield Heights, Ohio. Last month, a hospital security officer shot a patient with bipolar illness in Lynchburg, Va. Two psychiatric patients died, one in Utah, another in Ohio, after guards repeatedly shocked them with Tasers. In Pennsylvania and Indiana, hospitals have been disciplined by government health officials or opened inquiries after guards used stun guns against patients, including a woman bound with restraints in bed.
Pean's story is very sad, I hope the justice system dismisses the charges against him, and that these hospital policies are reviewed. It makes no sense that considering his history he wasn't placed in the psychiatric ward ... and that he wasn't seen by a psychiatrist.

I'm sorry Alan.

My demons won today, I'm sorry.

Erykah Badu styled a Kerby Jean-Raymond fashion show that spotlighted mental health.
“My demons won today, I'm sorry.”
... was a Facebook post 23-year old MarShawn McCarrel - a Black Lives Matter activist - wrote before shooting himself in front of the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.

You can check out pieces on the fashion show on Mashable, and on Elle.

I also recommend a Washington Post article on McCarrel and what we now refer to as "racial battle fatigue." 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Early-onset existentialism.

Him: Have you ever been religious?

Me: No.

Him: Not even when you were little?

Me: No. None of it ever made any sense to me. Too many rules that were arbitrary and made no sense to me. Even very little I didn't understand why people cared if someone was gay. I took a religion class once, in third grade, and all I did was ask questions and get frustrated.

I've read a lot of books. Both in the Judeo-Christian tradition and in other cultural traditions. I've studied. I've taken classes. I've accompanied friends to bible class. I made an effort to learn, and I made an effort to be supportive of my questioning friends. It was difficult though. I don't like religious spaces. To me, they're tinged with judgement and a history of violence. I consider the spaces hostile.

Him: You never had a belief in God?

Me: Never. I wanted too, when I was really young. I'd say the words but they had no meaning to me. I knew I was pretending. If anything I had early-onset existentialism. I asked a lot of questions about life and death early on. None of it made sense to me, from the get-go.

Him: What about now?

Me: All there is, is now. And I do my best. I'm a hyper-sensitive person, always have been. I'm sensitive to others. I'm intuitive. I have strong instincts. I struggle; often. Kindness matters. Life is so brutal, and I try and warm the bubbles I inhabit. I try.

I'm an atheist. I don't believe in a God. The only religious philosophy that ever spoke to me was a Buddhist reading I did that started by stating "All Life is Suffering." It was like someone finally spoke to me in my language.

I'm not a Buddhist, but much of their philosophy is beautiful. I can appreciate the focus on the self, and how our largest struggles will always be internal.

Him: What about a moral code?

Me: I think a moral code is innate. We know what feels good. What hurts. What kindness feels like to give and receive. I think logic and empathy can dictate a more effective moral code than religion ever has.

Who gives a shit if two women are in love? What a ridiculous thing to stick on. How about wanting the best for your neighbour's happiness? What about recognizing bodily autonomy? What about disavowing all violence, not only violence you can't justify to yourself?

Morality grows out of experience. We've all tested those boundaries as children, and felt guilt. That's why the majority of us aren't socio-paths. We can make that distinction.

If a person tells me a not-so-ancient text is the only reason they don't murder, I worry about their state of mind.

Him: Can't religion be a set of guidelines, or a source of inspiration?

Me: In theory, yes. It's doctrine that frightens me. Especially since it's so indicative of a patriarchal, hetero-normative history. One that has justified slavery and almost every kind of brutality and abuse a person can think of.

Maybe the real problem is the fundamentalism of it all. The word is often used now in relation to notions of the religious fundamentalism of "others," but it's not new. It's always been here. It's fundamentalism that sources the Westboro Baptist Church and other hate groups.

Fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous. I guess I just don't associate any religion with being easy-going and open to progress. Maybe things will change. Culturally things seem to be leaning into notions of "spirituality" and often refer to more psychology-based methods of wellness. But there's fundamentalism everywhere.

When The Secret came out - you got folks going nuts over positive psychology. So if your life was shit, it was because you didn't believe enough. That's a real kick in the face to someone going through a hard time. It's patronizing and it's dangerous. It also completely wipes out the omni-importance of context.

Him: What is the secret then?

There is no fucking secret. Do the best you can.

Me these days.

I always stay carbohydrated.


Check out this great Slothilda Sloth site!


How is it I can speak of living a life with such certitude one moment and feel complete bewilderment the next?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


The Washington Post has an article up on ketamine possibly being a new treatment for depression.

They're still a lot of caution tape on this, but the initial research seems promising.

Ketamine seems especially helpful in situations where immediate intervention is needed. Which, if you're suicidal or deeply depressed, can get you into a space where decisions about your well-being are easier to make. It also just alleviates suffering, which is often only mentioned in passing.

I have not always been suicidal, but that doesn't mean I'm not in constant pain. And sometimes, that baseline of pain is manageable, but sometimes it doesn't take much to make you incapacitated by a slight increase in psychological pain.

I'm always happy to read about research funding and the scientific findings happening around mental health and mental illness. Especially when it reminds me that there are people actively working on these things.

I often feel like it's not really happening. That nothing is changing. That this invisible disease isn't taken seriously. People have to take my word on my experience. My words fall flat to what it really feels like. This low-frequency hum that burrows into my chest.

 It's encouraging to know that relief could be possible.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Before it helps you, it'll hurt you.

It’s been a whirlwind last couple of weeks. I’d been pretty busy, and then you know, I got vertigo. I woke up one morning to being totally topsy-turvy.

Vertigo would hit me whenever I moved my head significantly. Sitting up. Getting up. Rolling over in bed. Tilting my head back. Looking up. Basically I felt like my eyes were rolling around in my head, and that my eyes and brain were on a roller coaster while my body stayed perfectly still. It’s not dizziness, it’s really all-encompassing, like you’re being rotated from the inside. I couldn't walk in a straight line. It was rough.

I went to see Dr. Rishi and he asked that I lay down, and made me tilt my head a certain way. Well I did this and got hot and sweaty and felt like I was losing my mind while being sucked into a washing machine so he congratulated me on having a severe case of vertigo. I had to sit a while not to puke, and he had to hold my shoulders so I wouldn't fall over. He diagnosed me with a case of severe vertigo and I went home. Technically called Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), it’s when a small particle makes its way into the liquid of your ear canal, confusing your brain and balance centre. He explained that the exercise he had me do, I should do at home, twice a day, in an attempt to bring the particles that are causing the vertigo back out of the ear canal. 

Optokinetic nystagmus.gif

Called the Epley maneuver, the first time I did it in the doctor’s office, I stopped, since it seemed to trigger an episode of severe vertigo and I thought I might be sick in the office. When I did it the following morning, at home, I thought I’d power through it. Well, when I laid on my side afterwards I began instantly vomiting, without even feeling nauseous. It was just awful. I was still experiencing vertigo, and the world was spinning so I remained on my side, unable to get up, while continuously vomiting.

Best bit? I was in my mother’s bed. She has a really high bed, so I thought I’d be better able to hang my head off of it, to force gravity to do it’s thang. So when my mother heard my convulsed expulsions, she came running. She brought me “the bucket” which I couldn't use since I couldn't lift my head, and then I yelled “towel” and she brought me a towel. I didn't puke in the towel, I laid the towel down over my puke so I could return to laying on my side while reality spun around.

I then followed this by saying, “I threw up in your bed” over and over. I spend the next two days resting/recovering. Looking back now it seems like that exercise got everything back into place, since it was clearly successful in moving things around. I felt wobbly for the next few hours, but the worse of the vertigo seemed to be behind me.

All of this took about a week and a half. I ended up missing Friday and then going in on Monday, and then taking the rest of the week until Friday again. This means I took 4 paid sick days, of my allotted 5, and it’s only February. So again, I'm left with no sick days for the rest of the year.

My biggest worry was my upcoming trip to BC to go see C. It has been planned forever and I traded in air miles tickets like 6 months ago, I would hate to have to cancel. It’ll be a countdown to Friday, when I take a flight out to Calgary (then on to Victoria) after work.

It’ll be nice to be somewhere else. It’ll be good to see C. Might be a little intense, since I'm on a couch and won’t have my own bedroom, but it’s only for a short time. She seems to have all sorts of things planned. We might go up to Tofino.

Being sick, and before that, being quite busy, has left me in a bit of a spot. I'm a little detached these days, tired. It could be the weather and the lack of sun, maybe I'm starting to get that winter madness.

I haven’t been able to write much, or create much for that matter. I'm tired and I feel slower than usual.

I have thoughts that run into my head that I consider exploring, but whatever inspiration hits me is just as quick to recede. 

I hope BC is good for me.

After the (shit) storm.

The week of your life after having had vertigo is so amazing.

Lisa Vertudaches animation dance happy food

I belong in a Lonely Island / Lego video.

Gif by Lisa Vertudaches.