jump to navigation

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

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
Tags:
1 comment so far

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.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

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!

My Civil Right to Own A Gun May 31, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, mental illness.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

With the latest killing spree in California, there is renewed discussion of keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
I am a hunter, but one of the things I had to give up in order to be released from the mental hospital was the right to bear arms. I’m not sure how, but the State managed to take away my right under the constitution. If I try to purchase a gun, I am supposed to be prevented from doing so. I haven’t tried to buy a gun to see if they really stop me, but I can tell you that I legally purchased a handgun prior to my involuntary commitment, and no one has tried to take it away from me. I don’t know whether they would stop me from getting a hunting license. I am tempted to try, but haven’t done so.
Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of the day I got involuntarily committed to a mental hospital for throwing some furniture at a wall in a hospital emergency room and taking off my clothes there as well. It is also the 6th anniversary of the day my civil rights were violated when I lost my ability to own a gun. Although I am no longer involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, my civil rights continue to be violated. Despite the fact that I was never arrested, I am being denied my right to own a gun. Simply being involuntarily committed by the State of Washington resulted in my loss of the right to bear arms, which is supposed to be a constitutional right.
According to my attorney in the mental hospital, once I’ve been out of the mental hospital and stable for about 7 years (her number), I can go before a judge and request my constitutional right to own a gun be restored to me. I plan to go before a judge to make that request next year.
Can the government eliminate a civil right because I threw some furniture at a wall in an emergency room? Was being diagnosed with a mental illness reason enough to take away my civil rights?
Politicians will tell you the right of society to live in a safe environment trumps my civil right. Is having a mental illness a good enough reason for the government to take away my civil rights? Apparently so.
I realize there will be some anti-gun people out there who don’t believe anyone has a right to bear arms under any circumstances, so I discount those people because they don’t believe anyone should have that civil right. I am more interested in the people who believe everyone (except the mentally ill) should be able to own as many weapons as they want, with no restrictions. They want to give everyone carte blanch to own anything- unless you happen to have a mental illness. They even want to reach a little further and “catch” those people who appear to be unstable, and take away their right to own a gun too.
Civil rights are, by definition, supposed to be universal. Everyone is supposed to have the right to speak their mind without fear of incarceration. And everyone is supposed to be able to own a gun. And yet some conservatives, who are overwhelmingly for the 2nd Amendment, are probably the first people who don’t think I should be able to own a firearm because of what I might do with it. Do the reasons for violation of civil rights matter? They say they do.
I have been told that guns are dangerous for people with a mental illness. They say people with a mental illness are more likely to use a gun on themselves or others. People with a mental illness, they say, are too unstable to own a gun.
In fact, with the latest round of murders in California, there is the usual talk of not allowing people with a mental illness access to guns. But the problem is that, once again, the guy they want to prevent from having a gun is the guy without a diagnosis. And if you take away the right of people with a mental illness to own a gun, nobody will want to get diagnosed. Besides, how do we find those people? By the way they act? Is it going to become easy to get someone diagnosed against their will with a mental illness?
What is the solution to the problem of preservation of civil rights and making sure society stays safe? Is there a balance?
The solution lies in making it socially acceptable to seek a mental health diagnosis, and in making it easier to get people help. The parents of the kid who went on the latest killing spree tried to get him help, but they failed. The system failed them. So now people think the answer is to keep people who they suspect as being unstable from being able to exercise their constitutional right to own a gun. But is it legal to prevent someone from owning a gun because of what they might do with it? I say no. It is a slippery slope, and we need to be careful. Pistol

January 3, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

(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.
Tags: ,
1 comment so far

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.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

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.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

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.
Tags: , ,
1 comment so far

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.
Tags:
2 comments

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.

Hearing Voices Network August 7, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hallucinations, mental illness.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

What Are Voices & Visions?

When we talk about voices and visions, we simply mean someone is hearing, seeing or sensing something that others around them aren’t. These experiences can include all five senses, hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. These experiences can occur in one sense at a time (hearing a voice, for example, or smelling something), but they can also happen in combination.

For some, these experiences can be comforting. For example, someone who is lonely may really value a voice that becomes a trusted confidant. A person who has recently lost someone they care about may benefit from talking to them at the end of the day, or smelling their perfume/aftershave. Others find these experiences to be a source of inspiration. Authors, for example, sometimes talk about how the characters can come to life and write the story for them. However, for some people these voices and visions can be extremely distressing – criticising, threatening or causing confusion.

How Common Is It?

Statistics vary, but it’s generally accepted that between 3 and 10% of the population hear voices that other people don’t. If you include one off experiences (like hearing someone call your name when you’re out shopping, or feeling your phone vibrate in your pocket) this figure goes up to 75%. So, having at least one experience of hearing or seeing something that others around you don’t is incredibly common. Those that have never had this experience are in the minority.

A number of famous and important people (past and present) have experience of hearing or seeing things that other people don’t. Without these people, the world would be a very different place. This list of famous people who have talked or written about hearing voices includes: Gandhi, Socrates, Joan of Arc, Freud, Anthony Hopkins, Philip K Dick, John Frusciante, Carlos Santana, Robert Schumann, John Forbes Nash, Zoe Wannamaker and Charles Dickens.

What’s It Like?

We’re all unique, so it’s unsurprising that voices and visions can be equally individual in terms of their identity, content, interpretation and impact. The following gives a brief overview. If you don’t recognise your experience here, that doesn’t mean you’re ‘weird’ or ‘unusual’.

Voices

Some people hear voices talking when no-one is around. These could be like the voices of people they know, or complete strangers. They might hear many voices, or just one. Voices can shout, whisper, be clear or muffled. They can speak in sentences or say single words. These voices can be male, female, genderless, old or young. Sometimes they have names, but not always. Voices can speak constantly (24/7), but they can also utter occasional words or phrases. People can hear other types of sounds too, including knocking, rustling, crying, screaming or music.

Some voices can be positive – providing the support and encouragement someone needs to get through the day. Other voices can be confusing, perhaps echoing thoughts or repeating strange phrases. Some voices can be very frightening, saying things that are critical, threatening or commanding. Voices can claim to have great power and knowledge, which can sometimes leave the voice-hearer feeling scared and powerless. Some voices can leave a person feeling very vulnerable and exposed (e.g. hearing a crowd of people jeering at you, or discussing intimate details of your life).

Visions

Some people see things that others don’t. These visions can be very clear and realistic, but they can also include fuzzy shapes, shadows and beams of light. Some people see the voices that they hear, others see insects or spiders. For some, the visions are very complex (like entering into another world). For others, the visions sit alongside their everyday world (an added box, person or animal for example). Sometimes, it can seem as if people or objects are changing shape. Their faces may turn to stone, they may be surrounded by a coloured aura or, for example, their eyes may change colour. As with voices, these visions can be reassuring, funny, frightening or distracting.

Smells

Some people smell things that remind them of their past. This could be something nice, like a loved one’s perfume/aftershave or a favourite food.

Sometimes people smell things that remind them of a particularly traumatic experience. For example, someone who survived a house fire may smell smoke when they feel anxious. Someone who was hurt by someone wearing a particular scent may, sometimes, smell this when there is no-one there to account for it. This can be extremely frightening, especially if they don’t recognise that this sensory experience comes from the past.

For others, the smell isn’t linked to a particular memory or traumatic event. For example, some people smell gas, burning or rotting food. These smells can feel very real and leave them fearing for their safety.

Taste

It can be difficult for someone to know that they’re tasting something that others can’t – unless they get someone else to try it too. This can make taste experiences particularly difficult to deal with. Some people get a strong bitter taste in their food or drink and, understandably, start to worry that there is something wrong with it. This can lead people to worry that they are being poisoned, or that someone is tampering with their food. Others have taste sensations when they are not eating. This might be when they are hearing a voice, watching a TV programme or thinking about something. These taste sensations can be pleasant (e.g. chocolate or a favourite food), but they can also be unnerving or unpleasant (e.g. something bitter or metallic).

Feeling (touch)

Some people can feel things on their skin when there doesn’t seem to be anything there. They might feel something crawling over their skin, tickling them or pushing them. Sometimes people feel something underneath their skin, and this can lead them to feel really worried about what is happening to their body.

Understandably these experiences can be very confusing and frightening. It’s not as simple as this, though. For others, these experiences can be reassuring. Someone who feels lonely and hears a reassuring voice may feel comforted if they feel a hand on their shoulder. They might interpret it as a sign that the voice is trying to support them.

Why Do People Hear Voices

There are lots of different theories and ideas to explain why people hear voices or see visions. These include:

  • A special gift or sensitivity
  • Trauma or adverse life experiences
  • Dissociation
  • Spiritual experiences
  • Biochemical (e.g. excess dopamine)
  • Paranormal experiences
  • Emotional distress
  • Physical health problems
  • Cognitive error (misattribution of ‘internal speech’)
  • Individual difference

The truth is that we do not know why people hear voices or see visions. As the experience is so diverse, it’s likely that there are a number of different explanations. Whilst this can be frustrating for those who feel confused and would like a simple answer or some certainty, it means that the most important explanation is the one that the voice-hearer themselves finds useful. It is important not to impose your own belief on someone else’s experience – this is fundamental to the Hearing Voices Network approach. Rather than providing a dogmatic view of voice-hearing, we recognise and celebrate a festival of explanations.

Whatever someone believes about their experiences, the most important thing is to find ways of dealing with that belief and finding some sense of power, control and hope within it.

Is Recovery Possible?

At the Hearing Voices Network we use the word recovery to mean ‘living the life you choose, not the life others choose for you’ (whether those others are family, friends, workers or voices). Many people who hear voices simply don’t need to recover – they are already living lives that they love. The voices might enhance their wellbeing, or their experiences may simply not detract from it.

For those who have particularly overwhelming experiences that lead them into the mental health services, recovery can feel like a distant dream. The good news is that people can, and do, find ways to deal with (and recover from) distressing voices. Perhaps more importantly, people can also recover from the situations that can make voices and visions so hard to deal with. Many people who recover continue to hear voices. Sometimes these voices change during the recovery process (being an ally, rather than an attacker). Other times these voices become quieter, less intrusive or even disappear altogether. Others find that the voices stay the same, but that they are no longer ruled by them. They feel stronger and more able to choose whether to listen to the voices or not.

We have witnessed many amazing journeys of recovery in the Hearing Voices Network. These journeys are, by their very nature, very individual. However, these journeys have led us to believe that no matter how overwhelmed or distressed the person is by their experiences (or whatever labels they have collected throughout their time in the mental health system) – recovery IS possible.

(Reprinted from Hearing Voices Network- http://www.hearing-voices.org)