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Depression June 11, 2018

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Uncategorized.
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About two weeks after I was released from involuntary commitment to a
mental hospital, the side effects from my medication were almost intolerable. I was still hearing voices, and the voices told me that all I had to do to get back to the wonderful world of mermaidhood was to stop taking my medication. I was at a crossroad. Should I secretly stop taking my medication, or should I tell my psychiatrist about the voices? I finally decided to tell my psychiatrist.

After hearing about the voices, he told me I had two choices. I could return to the hospital for more intense treatment, or I could take a medication called Haldol. He asked me if I had heard of Haldol before. I said I hadn’t.

At that point, I would have done anything to avoid going back to the mental hospital, so I agreed to take the Haldol. But getting the prescription filled proved difficult. My local pharmacy only carried the Haldol in 5 mg tablets, and I needed a dose of 50 mg twice a day. We finally located a pharmacy that had the 50 mg tablets, and so I began my new regimen.

Within days, I slowly descended into a cesspool of darkness. The urge to kill myself started out fairly benignly, kind of like hunger. At first it was a twinge. I wanted to die. Then the urge to die became more pronounced. I crossed over from wanting to die to needing to die. Then dying became my sole focus. I expressed my thoughts to my husband, and it frightened him. He insisted that I call my psychiatrist to tell him what was going on, but I didn’t want to bother him. I thought it was no big deal. It was like an itch I needed to scratch.

At my husband’s insistence, I called my psychiatrist’s emergency number and it rolled to voicemail. I left a message that I didn’t want to bother him but I wanted to commit suicide. I hung up the phone, and was restless, trying to figure out how to do it. My husband suggested I take my dog for a walk while I waited for my psychiatrist to return my call.

As I got to the road with my dog, it dawned on me: I could commit suicide simply by walking out in front of a moving car. But then I realized that my dog would get injured by the car too, and I didn’t want my dog to die, so I decided against that method of suicide.

My psychiatrist called while I was out walking my dog and told my husband to stop the Haldol immediately. Once I was off the Haldol, my suicide ideation stopped.

It is crystal clear to me that suicide is the result of brain chemistry malfunction. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were victims of their brains as surely as someone who dies of a heart attack was a victim of their heart malfunctioning. In a perfect world, there would be no stigma associated with suicide because suicide would be viewed as a medical condition associated with brain chemistry. Perhaps one day we will get to that point.

Airplanes and Mental Illness May 31, 2017

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Anxiety, Delusions, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Stress, Uncategorized.
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Ever since my psychotic break back in 2008, my world has shrunk. Due to my reduced mental capacity either from the damage done to my brain from the break itself, or the side effects of the medication I take, I am no longer able to process information as quickly as I used to. Trying to think is sometimes like trying to punch a hole through a wet blanket with my fist. The end result is that situations that used to be routine, such as flying so, are no longer so.

Also, to compound the situation, when I get under stress, I hear voices. They sound like telepathy, coming from inside my head. They are genderless and speak in American English. I am well aware that they are a figment of my imagination, but that doesn’t mean I can control them. Far from it. They come on gradually as the stress builds and leave a few minutes after the stress is over. If I took enough medication to never hear them, I would be comatose. I choose instead to avoid stress as much as possible. Between the foggy thinking and stress avoidance, my world shrank considerably.

The dangers of travelling alone were confirmed a few years ago when I flew to Seattle from Phoenix. The trouble started as I approached the security line. At first the voices were just a whisper, telling me that they would find contraband in my luggage. The voices told me I would be arrested and jailed when they found it. I knew I had no contraband because I had packed my luggage myself. But that didn’t stop the voices. The closer I got to the xray machine, the louder the voices got. As the TSA agents began waving a metal detector around my body, the voices got so loud that I could barely concentrate on my surroundings. Within minutes of completing the security check, the voices disappeared, leaving me with a desire to avoid travelling by myself any more.

Five years later, my husband and I planned a trip to Europe for July 2016. To speed up the process of going through security, we obtained our TSA Pre Check clearance. At the airport in July, I was pleased that a reduction in scrutiny by TSA resulted in substantially reduced stress, which meant a huge reduction in hearing voices.

Recently, my husband had the opportunity to spend a few weeks in New Jersey. The timeframe included Memorial Day 2017. He asked me to join him for that long weekend, but because of the previous event, I declined.

But a subsequent discussion with my sister in law worked out the challenges at the Seattle end. Then my husband worked out all the challenges except one at the New Jersey end. The only challenge remaining was getting from the hotel to the airport for my return trip to Seattle. I decided to brave the unknown, fight through the mental fog and stress and go on the trip, pinning my hopes on Uber to return me to the airport in time to catch my flight.

Uber came through beautifully, and my TSA precheck allowed me once again to avoid hearing most of the voices. The adventure was a success, and I am looking forward to flying solo in the near future. My world is expanding.

Multiple Personality Disorder: Co-Consciousness November 11, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, DID, multiple personality disorder.
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I had lunch yesterday with Tracy, a woman with multiple personality disorder. Multiple personality disorder is the layman’s term for Dissociative Personality Disorder, or DID. In this disorder, multiple people inhabit one person’s body. The other people inhabiting the primary person’s body are called alternate personalities, or alters for short.
In Tracy’s case, she has six alters. One is an old lady named Q who loves to make jewelry. One is a man, two are children, and the other two are adult women.
The reason I had lunch with Tracy was to get to know her better. She had approached me because she wanted to become trained in a NAMI program called In Our Own Voice (IOOV). In that program, two people living successfully with a mental illness go out to various groups of people such as college classes, church groups, police officers, psych nurses, or anyone else who wants to learn about mental illness and talk about what it’s like to live with mental illness on a daily basis. It’s a free program, and we’ll go anywhere. As a NAMI co-presenter, you become the face of mental illness to the group of people you’re giving the presentation to.
In order to do these IOOV presentations, the person with the mental illness must go through a two day training to learn how to give these presentations in the format NAMI wants them to use. Before we allow a person to enter IOOV training, we screen them to make sure they’re stable enough to endure the training and tell their story publically without becoming unstable. Rehashing the darker aspects of their mental illness can sometimes result in the person slipping back into their illness during their training or even during their presentation, and we don’t want that. Since the person giving the presentation becomes the face of mental illness to those in the room, we want a good representation rather than a poor one. And above all we want to avoid damaging the person giving the presentation by pushing them beyond their capabilities.
In the case of DID, there are basically two versions of the illness. I’m simplifying things, of course. In the first case, the main person is taken over by an alter and mentally disappears. They have no memory of the time where the alter takes over their body. The main person mentally disappears into another space and time, only returning when the alter leaves. This leaves gaps of time in their memory, and they have no idea what their alter said or did while the alter took over their body. This is called non-co-consciousness.
Up until I met Tracy, I had no idea that there was another form of DID, called co-conscious DID. In this case, the main person stays conscious while the alter takes over their body. They know exactly what the alter is saying or doing, and can assist the alter in communicating. During lunch, Several of Tracy’s alters appeared, and it was just like having lunch with three people rather than just one. Watching the alter interact with the main person is a little like watching a puppet show, except there’s no one with a puppet on their hand.
You’d think that people like us, who live in the world of mental illness, would be more knowledgeable about various mental illnesses. But we only know what we’ve been exposed to in many cases. When Tracy first approached NAMI to become trained in the IOOV program, we had never heard of anyone being co-conscious with their alter. Our only experience with DID was negative. Giving the IOOV presentations is stressful, and stress tends to bring out the alters. We were concerned that the alters would show up mid-presentation, and the main person would disappear, leaving the situation in chaos. We decided that Tracy wouldn’t be a good candidate for the training, and we told her so. She was very disappointed, and still wanted to have lunch and get to know me better. I readily agreed.
During our what became a two hour lunch (that seemed like 10 minutes), it became clear that we had made a mistake in denying Tracy the opportunity to join our IOOV program. As she talked about being co-conscious with her alters, it dawned on me that her situation wasn’t much different than mine. When I do the IOOV presentations, the voices return. I can’t see them, but they’re talking to me as if they were sitting next to me. Actually, it’s more like having telepathy with someone, since the voices are coming from inside my head rather than outside as if from a seat next to me. It isn’t any more distracting than having your child try to interrupt you as you try to visit with another adult. And so if I can continue my presentation despite the voices talking to me, then why can’t she continue her presentation if an alter shows up? As long as we can maintain continuity, the program will work just fine.
And so I changed my mind. I’m pleased to say that NAMI Snohomish County will have a new co-presenter. Her name is Tracy and she has DID.

Multiple Personality Disorder and Psychosis May 14, 2015

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Talking with my two friends with multiple personality disorder (also known as Dissociative Identity Disorder or DID) led me to thinking about the similarities and differences between my psychotic episode and their disorder.
During my psychotic episode, people came into a little room in my head. They sat in a chair and looked through a pane of glass that acted as a window to my world. Looking through the glass, they saw what I saw. They weren’t able to read my mind or know what I was thinking. I conversed with them via esp. Sometimes there was only one person in the room and sometimes there were many. The scary part was that I couldn’t see who was in the room, so I never was sure whether I was alone. The only way I figured out that someone had been in the room when I thought I was alone was when someone said something to me that they only would have known about if they were in the room and I didn’t know they were there. Had they not “slipped up”, I would never have known they were in the room. The fact that they could be in the room without me knowing made me paranoid.
DID means that someone has multiple personalities. Each personality has their own name, own mannerisms, own likes and dislikes, and is an entire person. The person with DID shares their body with these other personalities. With one friend, she goes into a “room” when a particular personality takes over. She is aware of what is going on but powerless to stop anything. With the other person with DID, she disappears entirely and the other person takes over her body. She is not aware of what is going on with the personality that takes over. Each different personality is called an “alter”. One friend has six “alters”, the other nine. Each “alter” is a different age, but they don’t age with the person with DID. Once a six year old, always a six year old. Once a 70 year old, always a 70 year old. Both these women have some men “alters”. These “alters” reside in a room in their heads. One friend’s room is black, with beds for each of their “alters”, complete with nightstands and lamps. Each friend can “feel” the other “alters” even when they’re not taking over their bodies. All the “alters” ask permission to take over before actually taking over. In one friend, the asking for permission is a relatively new thing. Both of my friends are married to two special spouses, who tolerate and are supportive of the “alters.
In my psychotic state, I got comfortable having people inside my “room” all the time. After I got over my paranoia, I started to enjoy the company of the people in my head. They kept me amused and entertained all the time. There was never a dull moment.
As a young woman, my mom made me join a swim team. Every day we had to go to swim team practice. That consisted of jumping in the (usually cold) pool and staring at the bottom of the pool for hours on end, doing laps. Every day was the same.
When I became aware that I was a mermaid during my psychotic break, it became clear that one of my duties as a card-carrying mermaid was swimming. I swam several times a day for several hours at a time. But unlike my time as a swim team member, I wasn’t alone in my mind. There were always interesting people around telling me I was brilliant. I thought deeply about how to solve humanities’ problems, and discussed my lofty ideas with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, the Dalai Lama, and Bill and Melinda Gates. Together we solved the world’s problems as I swam laps for hours several times a day, every day.
With DID, there is a treatment involving “integrating” the various personalities into the DID person’s personality. The idea is that each “alter” sees their own counselor and resolves their issues. As this happens, there is no need for the “alter” to exist anymore, so that “alter” disappears. As each “alter” gets integrated and disappears, that alter in effect dies.
Both friends declined integration therapy. They are so used to having their “alters” in their lives that the thought of losing them terrifies them.
I can relate to how lonely their lives would be without their “alters”. When I began my medication in the mental hospital, at first I didn’t feel anything was changing. But as I kept on the medication regimen, all of the people in my room disappeared. I became lonely inside my head. The individual people who inhabited the room in my head turned into disembodied voices inside my head. They left a huge void in my life, and I missed them terribly at first. I had to stop swimming because it became exceedingly boring again when they were gone.
I can really appreciate how scary the thought of their “alters” going away must be. I only had my “people” for a few months, and I was very attached to them. I can’t imagine a lifetime of relationships ended like that. I understand perfectly why they decline treatment.

Psychotic States of Mind March 13, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Psychotic.
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Last night, I had an opportunity to talk with two people who were either in the middle of a psychotic break or had recently suffered a psychotic break. We had a lot in common.evil-king-clipart-1197085763320041168nicubunu_People_faces_devil.svg.med
The important concept to understand about a psychotic break is that the reality imposed by the break is as real to the person suffering from it as your reality is to you. If we think there’s someone hiding under our porch or standing outside our bedroom window, then someone is in fact doing that. That is our reality. And it’s scary stuff.
A psychotic break isn’t just limited to the brain thinking a psychotic thought. Our senses support that reality. In my psychotic state, all my senses supported my reality. Nothing was amiss. I smelled the perfume of someone (who wasn’t there and never had been there). I felt a (nonexistent) flap of skin between my toes that made my feet into fins. When I had my mask and snorkel on in the water, people surrounding me had green skin. I trusted my senses, since they had never failed me before. As they had throughout my entire life, my senses confirmed my reality.
Right before I was involuntarily committed, I came to the realization that as a mermaid, I was in extreme danger. Over the course of a month or so, I noticed that while I was swimming in the pool next to the wall, my body emitted a pink powder that built up on the sides and in the corner of the pool. The powder, which was warm to the touch and dissipated like flour in water, was actually a form of energy that could be harnessed to generate electricity. Right then, I knew I was in danger of being captured by some evil people and hooked up to a power plant. That thought was in the back of my mind as I returned to the swimming pool for the third time that day.
As I made my way to the pool from the parking lot, everyone I passed- men, women and even babies- were all zombies. Their white skin hung on their bodies, and they had black holes where their eyes were supposed to be. I was disturbed by what I saw, but not afraid enough to forgo swimming.
That was my reality, and no one could have persuaded me that the people I saw weren’t really zombies.
Last night, all three of us shared similar delusions. All of our delusions were real to us, and they were for the most part scary and negative delusions. If you think zombies are after you, you live in terror of being captured. If you think someone is waiting outside or under the porch to grab you, you live in terror of being captured by those people. If you think the mob is trying to kill you, then you fear for your life all the time.
Delusions feed on themselves, and we start to see patterns where none exist. We notice four red cars in five minutes while driving, and those red cars reinforce the fact that the mob is trying to kill us.They confirm our worst suspicions. Patterns confirming our delusion are everywhere. We see what our reality tells us.
We looked for solutions to our common problem: how to tell if we’re in a delusion. But the problem with looking for solutions is that when we’re in the middle of a delusion, that is our reality. We don’t have the presence of mind to wonder if our perceived reality is the truth. Of course it’s the truth! And anyone who tries to persuade us differently is an enemy.
The best way to solve the problem of being terrified of our delusions is to get assessed by a psychiatrist and go on medication to make the delusions go away. But this is difficult, since the delusions include not trusting anyone who tries to persuade us that our perceived reality isn’t real. It’s a catch 22.
The real trick is overcoming the lack of trust the person in the delusion has. They trust no one, especially anyone who challenges their reality.
Right now in Olympia, legislators are debating new legislation that would make it easier to get people suffering in a delusion help. The standard for involuntary commitment- which is what has to happen in the case of severe psychotic delusions- would be lower than it is now. You wouldn’t have to harm yourself or someone else in order to start treatment. You would have to be assessed as having a likelihood of harming yourself or others rather than having injured yourself or others. This legislation would improve the quality of life of someone in the middle of a severe psychotic episode because it would force them to start their medication, which would make the delusion fade enough to stay on their medication willingly. It’s a huge step forward in the treatment of mental illness.
With enough medication, my zombies disappeared. With enough medication, the mob stopped trying to kill my friend. And I trust that the people standing outside the bedroom window and under the porch will disappear for my other young friend, if only he can stay on his meds long enough. It takes weeks or sometimes even months for that medication to work, which is a long time if you’re suffering. Sometimes the delusions win the fight, and the person is stuck in their negative reality for life.
Hopefully, you get an idea of the power of these delusions. But there are solutions, if only people let those solutions happen, both on a State level and a personal level.
It’s important that we have conversations about mental illness and perceived reality. If someone’s quality of life improves because the delusions go away, that’s enormous progress.

“Rules” At Mental Hospital March 5, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, Mental Hospital, Uncategorized.
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Fairfax HospitalNAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has a few signature programs for people living with a mental illness. One such program is a series of 10 classes called Peer to Peer. The classes are designed to help people with a mental illness understand their illness better and build a fulfilling and satisfying life. All classes and programs are free, and are led by volunteers. The Peer to Peer class is led by two people who are successfully living with a mental illness. NAMI Snohomish County is holding their first ever Peer to Peer class, and last night was Class 9.
In that class, we discussed a stay in the mental hospital, which most people in the room were familiar with, including me. The focus was on the “rules” of the stay. Some are known, and some are not.
One of the biggest “rules” was how long the stay was going to be. Although there are guidelines, there are no hard and fast “rules”. During my hospital stay, I was told by several patients who had been in the revolving door of the hospital that their average stay was 2 weeks. But no one in authority gave me any indication of how long I would be there. When I point blank asked my psychiatrist daily, he was cagey about this point. He wouldn’t even give me a ballpark number. I was held, against my will, in a mental hospital and no one would tell me when I could leave- or even what I had to do in order to be released.
In the days before I was involuntarily committed, I was supposed to be helping my best friend, Becky, move from her home in Washington to Minnesota. But as the day of her move got closer, my psychotic episode worsened. I was supposed to help her drive back to Minnesota the day I was hospitalized. In retrospect, the added stress of her move was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
But the nature of my psychotic break was such that I suppressed the memory of helping her move.
Unfortunately for me, about all my psychiatrist had to go one was this one thread of information. My husband told the people at the hospital emergency room that I was supposed to be helping my friend move, so that’s what went on my chart. My psychiatrist read the chart, and, absent much else, laser focused on that one fact and built a treatment plan around it.
Day after day, my psychiatrist tracked me down and asked me the same question: Who was I supposed to be helping move?
I was bewildered by this question. I had no memory of anyone I knew moving, much less helping anyone move.
After a few weeks of this, I figured out that the answer to the question was my passport out of the place. But I couldn’t figure out the answer, much as I tried. My mind was blank.
Eventually, I came to believe that my husband and sister were having an affair (not true), and that they were keeping me locked up so they could continue. I even told my theory to my psychiatrist, who didn’t seem convinced.
After every one of our “sessions” where he asked me the question, I asked him when I was going to be released. He told me he didn’t know, but that I would be there awhile longer.
I realize now that my psychiatrist was using my ability to remember that event as some kind of “wellness” gauge. In his defense, he had very few tools at his disposal. All he knew was what was written on my chart.
As it turns out, my hospitalization was a good thing, but I didn’t see it that way until months later, when I was in recovery. My civil rights were violated, and no one explained why. There is no written documentation that I was ever told I was being held because I was a danger to myself or others. And although you aren’t supposed to hold someone involuntarily because they don’t remember who they were supposed to be helping to move, that is in fact what happened to me. Oh yeah: and I wore gold clothes.
Apparently my psychiatrist picked up on the fact that I favored gold colored clothes. When I figured this out based on some comments he made, I switched to blue and turquoise colors, and he noticed. But it wasn’t enough to get me released.
Even the day before I was released, my psychiatrist told me I would be there awhile longer after he asked me the question I had no answer for. I didn’t believe my court-appointed attorney when she told me I would be released the next day, because my psychiatrist told me something different that morning. I didn’t know who to believe, so I chose to believe my psychiatrist because I thought he had the most power. As it turns out, he didn’t.
Although I understand the difficulties of treating someone in my condition, I feel my case was mismanaged.

Return to Mental Hospital January 22, 2015

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, Psych Ward.
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NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) has a program called In Our Own Voice (IOOV), which is a program in which people successfully managing their mental illness go out into the community and talk about what it’s like to live with a mental illness. The one hour structured program is free, and time is built into the presentation for questions. We typically present to churches, nurses, college students, and police officers.Fairfax Hospital

The Redmond, Washington affiliate, called NAMI Eastside, is now offering the program every Saturday to the patients at the mental hospital I spent three weeks involuntarily committed at six years ago. The coordinator for that program solicited help from our affiliate, NAMI Snohomish County, to help man the program, which takes two people to run. She was specifically looking for people who had actual experience in a mental hospital.

When she initially approached me to help with the program, I declined. I was uncomfortable with the concept of returning to the place I was locked up at and being locked in again. I was afraid that they might not let me out once they locked me in.

Additionally, once I was firmly ensconced behind those locked doors once again, I might regress back to my psychotic state. I always hear voices whenever I get under the stress of doing the presentation, although their questions and comments are benign. Once the presentation is over, they disappear.

I talked with my husband about the coordinator’s request, explaining my discomfort. He said he thought it would be good for me to return to the hospital- facing my demons so to speak. He assured me they had no cause to keep me there, and in fact would let me leave if I started to regress.

I decided to talk with the coordinator about my concerns, and received reassurance from her that the hospital staff would let me leave if I wished to at any point. She convinced me to give it a chance.

Last Saturday was my first presentation back at the hospital. When I arrived, I was surprised that the receptionist desk was in a brand new wing of the hospital. The place was bright and clean, with new furniture and two receptionists behind an enormous curved wood reception counter. When I introduced myself to the receptionist, she asked me my name. She typed it into the computer, and I half expected her to ask me if I had been committed there. But she didn’t. She pointed to a camera on her desktop, and took my picture so she could make me a temporary badge. I put on the badge and waited on a new leather couch in the brand spanking new waiting room for a staff member to take me to the presentation room. In the meantime, my co-presenter arrived and received his badge.

The staff member arrived, with four patients in tow, and took us to a conference room in the new section of the building. But the conference room was being used, so we were shuffled from the new section to the old section, into a craft room. Same old white tile, off white walls, stained craft tables, and uncomfortable chairs reminded me of my stay there. I was surprised to see a craft room, complete with plastic beads, painting supplies, colored pencils, and games, because when I was hospitalized, six years ago, they brought the craft stuff to us. We weren’t allowed out of the ward.

As we passed locked ward doors down the corridor, each had a sign like you find when you enter an area with a high fire danger. Instead of “Fire Danger” the sign read“Likelihood of attempt to Escape”. Choices were High, Medium or Low. Two wards had a high likelihood of escape attempts, and one had a low likelihood. I don’t remember any such signs when I was there.

I didn’t ask to see my old ward, and I didn’t recognize any of the staff.

I was pleasantly surprised that two of the patients had more interesting questions about hearing voices, but they related better to my co-presenter than to me, because their path into the hospital was via suicide attempts. Nobody claimed to hear voices or have delusional thoughts, and I didn’t expect that to happen. Those people would not be allowed out of the psych ward.

I ended up staying for the entire presentation, and I’m pleased to say I didn’t feel like I had to leave before the presentation was done. I wouldn’t hesitate to return.

Hearing Voices at Boeing October 25, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices.
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NAMI has several signature programs (all free), including one called In Our Own Voice.  In this very structured program, two co-presenters talk about what it’s like to live with a mental illness on a daily basis.  The program is about an hour long, with time for questions and answers at the end.

For me, stress brings on hearing voices.  In my daily life, I live a fairly stress-free life.  I have my routines, and my husband and family do a good job of insulating me from stress.  We live frugally, but have no major money problems that I am aware of.  I am no longer aware of any of our financial information because when I became psychotic I blew through lots of money in a short expanse of time, so while I was still in the mental hospital we decided to safeguard our financial future by keeping me ignorant of our finances.  The long and short of it is that a lack of information and a trust of my husband’s financial acuity mean that I can relax about money and not worry about it and stress about it.

The one thing that brings stress into my life is the In Our Own Voice presentations.  I stand before a group of strangers and share the story of my psychotic break and my resulting life changes.  Simply sharing that story brings back a state close to my psychosis as the memories of what was come flooding back.  With the return of that state comes a voice.  I tell the audience about the voice.  It is actually talking to me via ESP in my head during my presentation.  The voice is neither a man’s nor a woman’s.  It is genderless. As the presentation starts, it starts talking to me in a fairly quiet voice.  But as the presentation continues, the voice gets louder.  Fortunately, it doesn’t get as loud as it used to when I was psychotic, when I couldn’t hear myself think because the voice was so loud.

The voice tells me things to say to the audience, reminding me not to forget certain parts of the presentation.  It also tells me things to remind my partner to say.  It makes observations about audience members, especially focused on pepole’s clothing and hair.  I don’t notice these things until the voice points them out to me. It is distracting, but I have learned to live with it.  I am willing to put myself through this in order to bring knowledge and understanding of mental illness to a broad audience.

I have been told that because I know the voice isn’t real, I should be able to internalize that thought rationally and eliminate the voice entirely.  But it simply doesn’t work that way.  Even though I know the voice isn’t a real person, it still behaves as a real person, with thoughts of its own.  It isn’t simply my subconscious talking.  It’s a separate being apart from myself living inside my head and sharing my body.

Recently, my presentation partner, Matt, a chiropractor with a similar psychotic history, and I gave a presentation to a group of Boeing employees.  We typically get a few questions from the audience from every presentation, and audiences are usually eager to ask both of us questions, and usually bring up a question or two about the voice.  Surprisingly, at the end of our presentation, no one in the audience asked a single question. Not one.

I suspect that the stigma of mental illness played a large part in the lack of questions.  If you ask a question, it might mark you as someone with familiarity with mental illness, which might impact your career.  I understand that reasoning, but the whole point of the presentation is to break down that stigma and make it okay for people to ask questions.  Although we failed in that aspect of our mission, I think it is important to expose people to the reality of mental illness.  Telling people that I am hearing a voice during my presentation shows them that you can hear voices and live a fairly normal life, which is the other key part of the presentation.  You look perfectly normal, and no one knows what’s happening inside your head unless you tell them.

One day, I hope that people will be free to ask us questions during a presentation like that. But we’re not there yet.

Mental Illness Awareness Week October 5th through 11th October 7, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
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Sunday was the beginning of National Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs October 5th through 11th. 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. 9.)

Bringing public awareness of mental illness is important because when you eliminate the shame and stigma associated with it, you increase the likelihood that people will seek help.  It’s important to note that 1 in 4 people will be diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime.  That’s a lot of people.

National Depression Screening Day®

October 9, 2014


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.

Pangaea: Confessions of an Erstwhile Mermaid Is Now Available in Softcover September 3, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Mental Hospital, mental illness, Psych Ward.
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Spence JPG file for book cover  3 23 13My memoir, Pangaea: Confessions of an Erstwhile Mermaid, is now available in softcover at Amazon.  Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1483908550/ref=rdr_ext_tmb.

Writing the book was a cathartic process that helped me in my recovery effort.

The book idea started with my mother when I first was released from involuntary commitment at the mental hospital.  Riding in the car with my parents after my release, I decided to tell them about some of my beliefs and thoughts.  My mom was visibly disturbed by my revelations, and encouraged me to write my thoughts down, suggesting that I might want to write a book about my experience at some point in the future.  A seed was sewn.

Once I decided to write the book, I found that writing about my psychotic thoughts put me back into the beginning of my psychotic state of mind.  When I felt the dangerous pull of psychosis while I wrote, I stopped writing for a day.

When I started to write my story, I  had no idea how I had landed in the mental hospital. I didn’t remember the thoughts and actions that got me there.  So I started with what I did remember, which was my actual hospital stay.  Then I started, little by little, to remember the events prior to my involuntary commitment.

As I continued writing my story, each time I remembered more of what happened.  Writing my story was easy for me once I began remembering the thoughts and actions that got me committed. It was like watching a movie unfold in front of me. All I had to do was write what I saw on the screen.  Entire conversations and pictures came flooding into my mind.  The psychedelic colors I saw during my psychotic break were as vivid on the screen in my mind as they were when I was psychotic.  I saw the green skin of merpeople in my mind’s eye. I felt the flaps of skin between my toes that were my fins. I heard the timbre and pattern of speech my dog used when he talked to me.

In case you would rather purchase the ebook, it is available at Amazon at this link: http://www.amazon.com/Pangaea-Confessions-Erstwhile-Kathy-Chiles-ebook/dp/B00BZZ8R18/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1409943741&sr=1-1&keywords=kathy+chiles+ebook. For Barnes and Noble’s nook, here is the link: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/pangaea-kathy-chiles/1115285887?ean=2940016728599.

From the comfort of your armchair, come with me on my journey to insanity and back.  It’s a fun journey for the most part (what’s not to like about being a beautiful, smart, rich mermaid?) , and the end fills you with hope for the people living with mental illness and their friends and loved ones.  Enjoy!