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Anatomy of a Psychotic Break: God and the Talking Tree April 4, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions.
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As I strolled down the lane, my trusty rat terrier, Randy, bounced ahead of me, ducking in and out of the low bushes, stopping here and there to deposit his watery mark.
Several weeks prior, God had revealed to me my Purpose In Life. I was The Chosen One, charged with the special duty that would unlock the secrets of the universe to the mass of humanity inhabiting out tiny planet.
Contemplating how I would fulfill my mission, I came to the realization that I had absolutely no idea how to accomplish my God-given task. Distractedly, I walked along the lane, looking at, but not really seeing, the scenery as I contemplated my undertaking. The majestic cedars and stately pine trees swayed slightly in the wind, but I didn’t really notice. I was too bent on looking from a sign from God. Everywhere I looked, I saw nothing to help me. How was I supposed to proceed?
Coming to a stop in front of a large tree at the end of the lane, I stared hard. A tree. A tree? A TREE! Why don’t I ask it for help?
Talking with a Tree wasn’t like talking to a human. It was much more intuitive. I didn’t hear the voices of trees like I heard peoples’ voices when we talked via ESP. This was on a much grander scale. Pure thought. Conveyed from his soul to mine.
As I started to “probe” his soul- for lack of a better word- I quickly realized that he- and I don’t know why I knew it was a “he”- knew more about everything than I did.
Me: Impossible! How can an inanimate object know more than I do?
Tree: By using all sources of information.
Me: But you can’t go anywhere. You can’t learn anything. That’s impossible.
Tree: Knowledge is everywhere. It’s all around us. Trees- and almost everything else for that matter- live- really LIVE- outside your three dimensions. Only humans- and many dogs- make exclusive use of only three. And you didn’t even pick the best three.
Me: What are you talking about?
Tree: Look beyond three dimensions. Open up your mind. Stretch. A Tree stretches to the sky. You stretch to the sky too.

I don’t know how, but I knew exactly what he meant. I stood there in front of that tree, stretching my consciousness out as far as I could. Reaching…reaching…reaching. As I reached out, the Tree’s energy flowed to me. Ancient history. Billions of years. Not in pictures, but in thought.
Tree: You…Understand?…
Me: I’m trying to.

The energy surged through to my brain. Billions of thoughts, all simultaneous, pushing themselves into my consciousness.
Tree: I can help you…with your task from God. I am helping already.
I broke the connection. I had to pull away from all that energy. It was frying my brain.
Me: Too much.
Tree: Try again.
I stretched my mind, plugging into the Tree’s soul once again. This time I knew what to expect. I was ready for it, having fastened a kind of defense mechanism into my brain. Kind of like a circuit breaker.
Tree: Better?…Let’s try again…
My finger had been plugged into a light socket- or at least that’s what I thought at first. I saw the past. The present. And a little glimmer of the future. All at once. The term “mind-blowing” came to mind.
Tree: You think in pictures. Here’s a picture of your soul. A shiny white light, cross-shaped, appeared in my mind. This time no picture. Better, yes?
And then, the picture was gone, replaced by an explosion of energy. I knew I had to unplug again. Before I lost my mind.Image

“Boarding” the Mentally Ill January 25, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital.
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An article Thursday January 23, 2014 about boarding at Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland, WA, gave me hope for the future of treatment of mental illness in hospital emergency rooms. .  http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2022721653_boardingupdatexml.html. I had my own horrific boarding experience with this hospital in May of 2008.

Boarding is the practice of “storing” someone in a mental illness crisis at the hospital while waiting for someone with a mental health background to do a diagnosis and  find treatment for the person in crisis. At the time, Evergreen had no one on staff to do the assessment, and it sounds like nothing has changed in the past 5 years.  This lack of staff caused major headache and expense to everyone involved.

When I went to the emergency room at Evergreen, not one person with a psychiatric background, except for the Designated Mental Health Professional (a King County employee) interviewed me during my crisis.  All the hospital personnel did was lock me in a white room by myself for hours.  They kept me locked up alone until the on-call DMHP arrived, which was approximately 7 hours after I got there.

After hours of isolation with no explanation about what was going on, I became more agitated, as anyone in my circumstances, mentally ill or not, would be.  Locked in a room, isolated, with no explanation about what was going on, my delusions and hallucinations got progressively worse. I started to believe they were irradiating me, with the intent of killing me. That was, in my mind, the explanation of why they didn’t feed me during my day-long stay.

After hours of contemplation, I finally thought of a plan to get out.  I got them to allow me to use the restroom, then broke away into the emergency waiting room yelling “fire” in an attempt at escape.  This effort failed miserably.

I understood my rights, and I knew they had no legal basis whatsoever at that point to hold me.  I refused to sign the paperwork that would have checked me into the hospital, and I knew they couldn’t legally check me in.  And yet they locked me in a room.  What was I supposed to do?

At that point, I had done nothing dangerous.  My only “crime” was thinking I was a mermaid, which was not a violent thought at all.  People don’t associate mermaids with aggression, and I didn’t give the hospital staff any reason to consider me dangerous.  Even taking my clothes off in the emergency room didn’t pose a threat to anyone.  It was a sign of poor judgment- nothing more.

It was only after I had been locked in that room for several hours, with no explanation about what was going on, that I decided to throw the furniture at the wall in a misguided attempt to gain my freedom.  Had I been given any kind of explanation by the staff, any communication by them, about what was going on, I probably wouldn’t have thrown the furniture at the wall.

At the point I threw the furniture at the wall, I was declared a danger, which was my ticket to involuntary commitment.  I could likely have avoided involuntary commitment had I been seen by a psychiatrist at the emergency room.  I would at least have had a chance.

Hopefully, with the changes Evergreen is being forced by the Federal Government to make, they will have a psychiatrist on staff to interview people in the middle of a psychotic episode, and treat them more humanely.

After the DMHP declared that I was to be involuntarily committed, which was about 6 pm, the hunt for a mental hospital bed was on.  In the meantime, I was kept locked in that white room, with no contact with the outside world, and with no explanation about what was happening.  They should have at least made an attempt to tell me the plan.

At about midnight, three people walked into my locked room with a red four point restraint board and directed me to “hop on”.  There were straps erupting from all directions on that board, and I knew instinctively that they were going to strap me down once my head hit the board.  So I refused to jump aboard.  Upon my refusal, two security guards came at me, one grabbing me by the throat and slamming my head down on the board. He choked me so hard that he cut off my air supply.  I screamed.  The other security guard buckled me into the restraint board.  After he finished, a nurse came at me with a syringe and plunged it into my thigh.

I woke up the following morning in a room with a bed bolted to the middle of the room, and no other furniture.  I had no idea where I was or what had happened.  As it turns out, I had been involuntarily committed to Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland.  Even when I found out where I was, I knew nothing about the hospital or the process of involuntary commitment.

With proper treatment from the emergency room, I believe this whole scenario could have been avoided.  I’m happy to see things might change for the next person having a psychotic break.

Psych Ward Male Night Nurses January 22, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, Mental Illness and Medication.
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The Psych Ward was in reality a maximum security prison. Nobody left of their own accord.  Every 20 minutes, the nursing staff made their rounds to track down every patient. Whether we were in the shower, asleep or whatever, they always knew where we were.  As we slept, the night nurse came into our dark bedroom with a flashlight and shined it on our face and chest to make sure we were still breathing. If we were in the bathroom, they stood outside the bathroom door calling our name.  If we didn’t open the door to tell them we were there, they assumed that we were either trying to hide,  trying to kill ourselves, or already dead.  So they opened the door and hunted us down. There was no such thing as patient privacy.

A 10 foot barbed wire fence (with razor wire at the very top) surrounded the entire building, including the tiny courtyard attached to the building.  We weren’t allowed outside except for supervised group smoke breaks inside that tiny little courtyard. There was no such thing as structured exercise- or even unstructured exercise. If it happened at all, it happened at 8 pm, provided we could talk a staff member into walking us down the hall and out the steel double doors to a gym. Most days, the nursing staff was too short-staffed for that, but occasionally we got the chance to actually stretch our limbs out and break a sweat.

The hospital was always short-staffed, and the hardest shifts to fill were the night shifts. Nobody wanted to be a nurse on a psych ward at night. Most nights the only people they could get to handle the night shift were male nurses.  So usually there were two male nurses on the night shift overseeing about 25 patients. Sometimes only one male nurse was on the night shift.  Night nurses had unlimited and unsupervised access to all of those drugged up people (everyone was given sleeping meds) lying in their dark bedrooms .  Were there cameras?  In a few rooms.  But not all.

Night nurses were  required to walk into those dark bedrooms and shine a flashlight on the patient’s  face and chest every 20 minutes to make sure we were still alive, so they had every right to be in a patient’s dark bedroom alone. Under those circumstances, it would be child’s play for an unscrupulous  person to take advantage of a patient lying alone in her dark bedroom- a patient who was so full of sedatives  that she  wouldn’t wake up under almost any circumstance.  Even a patient sharing the bedroom with another patient could be a target, since both were heavily medicated. Added to that was the fact that the general reputation of a psychotic patient was that they were unreliable and their memories untrustworthy, and the psych ward was a virtual hunting ground for an unethical night nurse.

The morning following a night with one male night nurse on staff, I  thought I might have been violated by a male nurse. But I couldn’t make my mind up.   Was it my imagination?   I just didn’t know. I admitted to myself that I had been heavily sedated. Even then, I was in a fog. Was it real? Or wasn’t it?

Realizing that I had to let the people in charge know about my suspicions, I complained to the head nurse on duty.   I explained to her what I thought happened and that I couldn’t be sure, since I was sedated during the night. But certain things pointed in that direction.

Although she brushed off my complaint,  I watched as she returned to the nursing station.  A look of shock flash across her face as she read my chart. She immediately sought out the male night nurse on duty, and I overheard her berating him. The head nurse was obviously shaken up by what happened, but nothing further was communicated with me.  I was, after all, just a psychotic mental patient, obviously delusional and unreliable.

January 3, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
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(from a blog posted by my friend Bowling Joe)

My friend Kathy Chiles and I go way back.  As teenagers we met on Maui, Hawaii as our respective fathers were part of a two-year construction project which imported a bunch of workers and their families from Washington State.  Being uprooted from a stable teenage life and tossed into a public high school on Maui at age thirteen in 1974 was one of the worst years of my life.

I’m guessing it wasn’t great for Kathy either, but it it’s hardly a blip on her life experience radar compared to what she and her family went through in recent years.  She believed with all of her heart and mind that she was a mermaid.  Not just any mermaid though.  A mermaid who bought luxury items her family couldn’t afford.  A mermaid who had the gift of ESP and was able to communicate with the likes of Bill and Melinda Gates, as well as the Dalai Lama.  Eventually she was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, as things were on the verge of getting really, really bad.

She recently wrote an incredible and noteworthy book about her experiences, called Pangaea:  Confessions of an Erstwhile MermaidIt’s a fascinating read and has been a true learning experience for someone like me, whose knowledge of mental illness has been primarily driven by what I’ve seen on TV and in the movies.  (Spoiler alert:  it’s NOT at all like what you’ve seen on TV and in the movies).

Kathy’s book is available for download on Amazon or Nook. http://www.amazon.com/Pangaea-Confessions-Erstwhile-Kathy-Chiles-ebook/dp/B00BZZ8R18. Barnes & Noble noon: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pangaea-kathy-chiles/1115285887?ean=2940016728599.
I recently asked her a few questions about her book and experiences.Spence JPG file for book cover  3 23 13

What motivated you to write this book?

The idea of writing my book came from my mom.  When I got out of the hospital and went to their house so they could “babysit” me while my husband was on a Boy Scout outing, I told both my parents some of the psychotic thoughts I was having.  She and Dad were initially afraid, and she suggested I write them down so I would remember them later. Then, later on, she complained that when I went into the hospital she looked for books and resources to get an understanding of what might lay ahead of them, but there was nothing out there.
 
The only book remotely close was An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jameson. But that book wasn’t really pertinent to my situation as she saw it.  So once my ability to read and write returned, she suggested I write something that would instruct people on what to expect when their loved one became mentally ill.  I did some research and learned that she was right.  There isn’t anything out there like what I was able to write.

You seem to have a crystal clear recollection of what took place on your journey.  Did you paraphrase your words on occasion or do you really have a brilliant sense of recalling situations?

Initially, my memory was so bad that I couldn’t figure out how I had ended up in the mental hospital in the first place. My brain simply had hidden the information about the zombies in the pool from me.  The zombies were, of course, what drove me to go to the hospital emergency room which led to my subsequent involuntary commitment. Once I was committed, the psychiatrist kept asking me who I had been helping to move before my commitment.  I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. 

Once I began writing my thoughts and memories down, it was as if the blanket slowly lifted.  The more I wrote the more I remembered. It was therapy.  In the end, it was like sitting down in my living room and watching a movie and writing down what I saw. Easy as pie.  It was all crystal clear once the memory surfaced.  Then, at the hospital, I met so many interesting people that it was easy to remember them.  I have been told that having a psychotic break is like being on LSD, and I think this accounts for some of the clarity of memory. 

Mental illness is getting more mainstream press these days, probably due to many tragic occurrences involving weapons.  What are some things we can do as a society to help further enhance awareness of what mental illness really is and approach the level of attention that a disease such as breast cancer receives?

The problem with mental illness is that the tremendous stigma attached to having a mental illness keeps people from getting help.  Also, the nature of the illness itself precludes people from getting help, because one of the symptoms of the illness is a failure to understand that you are sick.  It’s called anosognosia. 

One of the other problems is that people’s civil rights get in the way of treatment.  There’s no way around the fact that involuntary commitment is the ultimate violation of civil rights.  The law makes it almost impossible to involuntarily commit people, and when they do they don’t keep them long enough for adequate treatment.  A hospital stay is driven by the number of beds available and the insurance of the person being committed.  Ideally, we would make it socially acceptable to seek treatment and get someone involuntarily committed and keep them long enough for their medication to fully take effect.  This means months of treatment rather than the two weeks currently in vogue. 

Had the stigma not been so great, I could have avoided a hospital stay.  When the voices took over my mind, I went to my physician and got a referral to a psychiatrist, but the voices convinced me it would ruin my life if I went.  They said my bosses would find out and fire me.  So I didn’t seek treatment and ended up hospitalized involuntarily.

But things are getting better as far as stigma goes, and people like Katherine Zeta Jones are proof of that.  Her voluntary commitment to a mental hospital hasn’t seemed to affect her career.  Her brave action might help others seek the help they need.

What would you say are the most common misconceptions people might have about mental illness?

In terms of involuntary commitment or even voluntary commitment, people have the impression that once you’re released you’re “fixed”.  But it takes months for the medication to build up enough in your system to get the symptoms under control.  My family is surprised that it took me so long to get rid of the voices.  And in reality, I still hear them when I get under stress.  So the thought that I will eventually be “disease free” is a misnomer. 

How have your relationships with family and friends changed since your diagnosis and subsequent stabilization?

One of the things my medication does is change my personality.  I don’t have the ups and downs that normal people have.  I am stuck in “neutral”, neither high nor low.  And being stuck in neutral means that my personality changed.  Compared to before, I am now boring and predictable.

Additionally, I have changed my personality as a result of my illness. I was a risk-taker and a workaholic before I became ill.  Now I am neither.  I can’t be a risk-taker any more, since with risk comes stress. Stress brings back the voices. The voices don’t bother me, but they bother the people around me. My psychiatrist is especially bothered by them, but I refuse to take so much medication to eliminate them that I am comatose, which is what it would take.

Changing my behavior and my occupation also changed my interests, and with that change came new friends.  I have mostly dropped my old friends, having nothing in common with them except memories.  I don’t face the same daily challenges I did before I was ill, so I can’t relate to my old friends any more.

Having very few challenges in my life (to avoid stress) also changes my personality.  I have been told I was a steamroller/bitch before I became ill, and that I am much more pleasant to be around nowadays. That is all to the good.

I have met many new friends through my association with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), an organization I learned about in the mental hospital.  I can relate to these people better than “normal” people, since we share similar experiences.  Talking with someone about the challenges of hearing voices is comforting.  I feel I’m not alone.  And friends and family members whose loved ones are mentally ill have been especially kind to me.

Do you have any challenging side effects as a result of the medications you use?

When I first left the hospital, I couldn’t read or write.  My balance was off, my hands shook and I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t get up to the speed limit or determine the distance between my car and the car in front of me.  These side effects have mostly resolved, and I am left with short term and long term memory problems and sleep problems.  Sleep is critical to me because without proper sleep I will become psychotic again according to my psychiatrist.  The biggest side effect I have is that I can’t retain information or understand information like I did before I became ill.  I prided myself on my high IQ before, but I have lost that. Remember the book “Flowers for Algernon“?  That’s kind of what I feel like.  It takes me a long time to understand concepts now, and in some cases I simply give up.
 
According to my psychiatrist, that could be due to my medication or the changes in my brain chemistry caused by the mental illness. Either way, it’s not going to resolve itself.  I’m stuck this way.  It was initially depressing, but the further I get from my pre-high IQ self, the more my memory fades of what it used to be like to instantly grasp and retain information and process multiple thoughts simultaneously.  Those things made me very good at my job, and i was paid well for my skill.  It has been quite an adjustment to get used to my “new normal”.   If I could return to my old life, I would in a heartbeat.  But that world is closed to me now.

Are you involved with any organizations which promote education, funding or treatment or mental illness?

My family and I first learned about NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) when I was discharged from the mental hospital.  They recommended I attend the weekly group therapy meetings (called Connections) held by NAMI.  I went to them, and found them important in my recovery.  Relating to people with similar problems helps. Sometimes I learn about successful solutions from someone who went through what I went through.  It’s amazing how many people hear voices, although the term “hearing voices” has many different variations.  It’s fascinating to learn about other people successfully (or not) meeting the challenges of living with a mental illness.

I now co-facilitate a Connections group in Everett, WA.  I also speak to people about what it’s like to live with a mental illness through a program called In Our Own Voice.  Additionally, once a year NAMI meets with police officers and educates them on how to handle mentally ill people they run into during the course of their work.  This is called CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) and is designed to keep police officers from accidentally killing people in the throes of a psychotic break as well as to keep mentally ill people out of prison or jail when possible.

We also go to Olympia, WA during Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday to lobby legislators on behalf of mental illness issues. NAMI’s purpose is to make the world a better place for those living with a mental illness and their friends and loved ones.

One of the best examples of what NAMI accomplished is the new “parity” law, which says that insurance companies who pay for regular hospital stays must pay for mental hospital stays to that same degree, Also, Washington State is making it easier to involuntarily commit people by allowing the Designated Mental Health Professionals (who assess people for involuntary commitment) to gather information from friends and loved ones and other interested parties of those being assessed.  Previously none of the bizarre behavior witnessed by others could be taken into account for assessment purposes. 

Also, a certain percentage of taxes must go towards mental illness, and that money is spent on mental health issues.  This is resulting in things like Mental Health Court and Triage Facilities (places to handle the mentally ill without entering the criminal system).  There are more beds being built right now in King and Snohomish Counties.  None of these things would have happened without NAMI. 

Depression and the Holidays December 16, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Depression, mental illness.
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The holidays are typically a time of depression for many people. But there is a difference between holiday depression and clinical depression.  Knowing the difference and things you can do about holiday depression might make your holiday season better.xmas tree clip art

What Is Major Depressive Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities.

There are times you may feel sad, lonely, or hopeless for a few days. But major depression — clinical depression — lasts longer and is disabling. It can prevent you from functioning normally. An episode of clinical depression may occur only once in a person’s lifetime. More often, though, it recurs throughout a person’s life.

In addition, with major depression, one of the symptoms must be either depressed mood or loss of interest. The symptoms should be present daily or for most of the day or nearly daily for at least two weeks. Also, the depressive symptoms must cause clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning. The symptoms cannot be due to the direct effects of a substance — drug abuse, medications — or a medical condition, such as hypothyroidism, nor occur within two months of the loss of a loved one.

For in-depth information, see WebMD’s Major Depression.

What Is Chronic Depression or Dysthymia?

Chronic depression, or dysthymia, is characterized by a long-term (two years or more) depressed mood. There are also symptoms present that are associated with major depression but not enough for a diagnosis of major depression. Chronic depression is less severe than major depression and typically does not disable the person. If you have dysthymia or chronic depression, you may also experience one or more episodes of major depression during your lifetime.

For in-depth information, see WebMD’s Chronic Depression (Dysthymia).

What Is Atypical Depression?

The key symptoms of atypical depression include:

  • Overeating
  • Oversleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection
  • Moods that worsen or improve in direct response to events

Regular — or “typical” — depression, on the other hand, tends to be marked by pervasive sadness and a pattern of loss of appetite and difficulty fall or staying asleep.

For in-depth information, see WebMD’s Atypical Depression.

The holiday season often brings unwelcome guests — stress and depression. And it’s no wonder. The holidays present a dizzying array of demands — parties, shopping, baking, cleaning and entertaining, to name just a few.

But with some practical tips, you can minimize the stress that accompanies the holidays. You may even end up enjoying the holidays more than you thought you would.

Tips to prevent holiday stress and depression

When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.

Reprinted from Web MD and Mayo Clinic

The Case for Insanity November 21, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
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The case for insanity is compelling

In early February 2008, at the beginning of my traipse into a world of make-believe, I had ESP.  How cool is that? I talked with people in my head.  Powerful people.   Bill and Melinda Gates. The Dalai Lama. Oprah Winfrey.  My (then) bosses. All of these people and more were at my beck and call.

Then there was my job situation.  In my fantasy world, my (real) boss, via ESP, directed me to quit my (real) job.  So I did. Then, via ESP, he begged for my return, promising me more money and better control over my job.  In the meantime, Bill and Melinda Gates offered me a job at The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  For twice the money.

And yet money had no real value.  I had access to Bill and Melinda Gates’ money.  I had a friend who was a time traveler who could make it so that I had money whenever I wanted it.  Because money meant nothing, I wrote a (NSF) check for  a beautiful, gold, brand new Lexus Convertible car.  Bill and Melinda Gates were going to reimburse me for the purchase as part of my new employment package. I bought a new wardrobe for my new job.

I owned $2 million in jewelry, including a 3 carat yellow diamond in a platinum setting, and an abalone bracelet that had once been owned by my (Mermaid) grandmother.

I talked with trees, dogs, and cats.

Last but not least, I was a genuine Mermaid.  Fish talked to me (literally). I had fins for feet. I had a beautiful tail.

I was beautiful.  I was energetic.  I was wealthy.

Now tell me that mental illness is terrible.

Halloween: Damage Control October 28, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Insanity, mental illness.
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Halloween’s coming around, and with it comes the worn-out old stories about the mentally ill.  The slasher movies and the guts and gore of the horror-filled inspirational costumes- all coming to a theater near you.

Norman Bates in Psycho, a 1960 horror movie, was inspired by Wisconsin serial killer Ed Gein.  The insane Leatherface from Texas Chainsaw Massacre, a 1974 horror movie, and Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs were both inspired by the same serial killer, a man whose “guilty but insane” conviction landed him in a mental  hospital.  In The Shining, Jack Nicholson gave a good impersonation of a psychotic man.  Dr. Jekyl was clearly insane when he became Mr. Hyde in the 1931 classic Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde.   Then there’s the classic: Halloween, about a young insane murderer who escapes from his Sanitarium (mental hospital) after being locked up for 15 years- ever since he was 6. Over and over the mentally ill are exploited for the benefit of the media.  In fact, out of the top 50 best horror movies of all time, over half involve mental illness. Mental illness is, after all, scary.

Unfortunately for those of us who are mentally ill, the media makes no distinction between delusional people in the middle of a psychotic episode,  insane murderers, schizophrenics, and what I like to call garden-variety mentally ill people (bipolar, depressed, OCD, etc). We’re all, in their collective minds, the same as Ed Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer who inspired both Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There’s nothing scarier, after all, than a mentally ill person.  Especially a psychotic one.   It’s no wonder that nobody wants to be identified as mentally ill. Who, after all, wants to be Ed Gein?

New Mental Hospital Beds Coming October 24, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
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Finally, things are looking up here in Washington State.  Currently, we are 50th out of 50 in terms of mental hospital beds per capita for the State. Two new mental hospitals are scheduled to be online within the next few years.  A 68 bed facility at Fairfax Hospital, where I was involuntarily committed, broke ground in May of this year.  A 75 bed mental hospital, complete with a 25 bed facility for children, is seeking approval for a location in Smokey Point near Marysville in Snohomish County. Currently, Swedish Hospital in Edmonds, with 23 beds, is the only mental hospital facility in the 733,000 person county.  And it doesn’t handle children.

Bringing these two hospitals online should help reduce or end the practice of “boarding”.  “Boarding” is the act of keeping people housed in regular hospitals while waiting for a bed in a mental hospital to open up.  This is common in King and Snohomish County because there are too few beds. In King County right now, two thirds of all detentions for involuntary commitment end up being “boarded”- sometimes for days, while waiting for a hospital bed to be freed up.

I had my own experience with “boarding” when I was involuntarily committed five years ago.  During my psychotic break with reality, I thought I was a mermaid named Pangaea.  Life was good in the bubble universe I was in.  My friends included Bill and Melinda Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and the Dalai Lama among others.  Bill and Melinda provided me with all the money I needed (in my fantasy world), and everyone hung on my every word, telling me how gorgeous I was.  And I had ESP. This went on for months.

Then things turned nasty.  Zombies showed up, with the intent of capturing me.  It was at that point that I remembered something I learned in grade school:  when your environment isn’t safe, head to a police station or hospital.  So I convinced my husband to drive me to a hospital by telling him I was hearing voices.  Except I didn’t mean it in the traditional way, but I knew he wouldn’t understand that I had ESP.  Feeling my reality dissolving around me, I wanted my husband to take me to the nearest trauma center, Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, but my husband chose Evergreen Hospital in Kirkland instead.

Once we arrived, my friends told me via ESP that the hospital was a trap, and I changed my mind about wanting to be there.  But I had made an error in judgment by telling my unsuspecting husband that I was hearing voices in an attempt to get him to take me to the hospital.  With that confession on his mind, he wasn’t about to let me return home.

Once I displayed my fins to people in the waiting room (I could feel the flap of skin between my toes, since as a mermaid I had fins) and took off my clothes in the emergency room, they locked me in a room for hours as they waited for an overworked County Designated Mental Health Professional to examine me to determine whether to involuntarily commit me.  That was in the late afternoon.  After her examination, she determined that I should be committed (but I didn’t know that).  That’s where the “boarding” came in. She finished her evaluation at around 4 pm, deciding to commit me.  But where? At that point, she started looking for a bed at a mental hospital.  But there weren’t many choices, and they were all full.

Not knowing what was going on, I sat in that locked room, for hours.  Finally, around midnight, they showed up with a four point restraint board and expected me to jump on and get buckled in.  I refused, so they grabbed me by the throat and pinned me down and buckled me in, then came at me with a syringe and plunged it into my thigh. I passed out, coming to in a mental hospital.

With new hospital beds on the way, and with some money (thanks to a new tax that goes towards funding for mental illness) to get training for emergency room personnel, the experience I had should become a dim memory.  At least that’s what I hope.

National Mental Illness Awareness Week Oct 6-12 October 6, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
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Today is the beginning of National Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs October 6th through 12th. In 1990, the U.S. Congress established the first full week of October as Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW) in recognition of NAMI’s efforts to raise mental illness awareness. Since then, mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities, large or small, for public education about mental illness.

MIAW coincides with the National Day of Prayer for Mental Illness Recovery and Understanding (Oct. 8) and National Depression Screening Day (Oct. 10.)

National Depression Screening Day®

October 10, 2013

 

Take an anonymous depression screening at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org

 

Screening for Mental Health offers National Depression Screening Day programs for the military, colleges and universities, community-based organizations and businesses.

Held annually during Mental Illness Awareness Week in October, National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) raises awareness and screens people for depression and related mood and anxiety disorders.

NDSD is the nation’s oldest voluntary, community-based screening program that provides referral information for treatment. Through the program, more than half a million people each year have been screened for depression since 1991.

National Depression Screening Day (NDSD) will be held on Thursday, October 10, 2013. In recognition of this national outreach, Screening for Mental Health — the sponsor of NDSD — is offering members of the public the opportunity to take a confidential and FREE screening for depression, anxiety disorders and bipolar disorder.

The screening allows you to find out whether or not a professional consultation would be helpful to you. Please know that no specific information about individuals is collected.

Many screening sites across the country are hosting National Depression Screening Day events in the next several weeks. To find a screening site near you, visit the www.helpyourselfhelpothers.org. To learn more about Screening for Mental Health, go to www.mentalhealthscreening.org. If there is not a screening site listed in your area, you can find a treatment facility near you by going to the SAMHSA Mental Health Services Locator.

Lock up the Mentally Ill to Prevent Mass Murders September 19, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Delusions.
Tags: , , , ,
2 comments

A young woman on Anderson Cooper 360 last night called Aaron Alexis “a crazy schizophrenic” and stopped just short of saying he should have been locked up.  Let’s take a close look at this idea, because it’s going to rear its ugly head.

First of all, Alexis was never diagnosed with a mental illness. So how do we find people like him and lock them up so they don’t kill people?  Let’s lock up anyone we suspect of having a mental illness. That would do the trick.

How do we find those people?

Let’s make the police find them for us.  Any time someone calls the police about someone acting bizarrely, let’s have the police assess that bizarrely acting person.  After all, the police interviewed Alexis when he called them to report someone was “sending microwaves through the wall”.  Anyone who makes bizarre statements like that should be locked up.

What about people who are acting bizarrely because they’re drunk?  Let’s not count those people.

Where should they go to be locked up?  Let’s build more mental hospital beds to house them all. How many beds will they need?  Well, if you count the number of people who want to commit suicide, there probably needs to be four times as many hospital beds as there are now.  Or don’t we want to count those people?  After all, they just want to take their own life- not anyone else’s.   Except for those people who do things like get in bad car accidents, managing to accidentally take the life of others with them.  So we should definitely count the suicidal in our sweeping net.

Should we let the police be the ones to make the official determination, or should we bring in someone trained to handle such a task, like the Designated Mental Health Professional?  That clinician determines whether someone is a danger to themselves or others, the current standard for involuntary commitment.  And that’s what we’re talking about: involuntarily committing anyone who exhibits bizarre behavior. We don’t really need a DHMP because the police already performed that function when they took the police report.

Violating people’s civil rights (which is, when you get down to it, what involuntary commitment is) will become commonplace. I don’t want to live in such a world.

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