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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.

Hearing Voices at Boeing October 25, 2014

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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.

Hearing Voices: A Comparison July 16, 2014

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hearing Voices.
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If you think all people hear the same thing when they hear voices, think again.

human-ear-clip-art_421267

When I hear voices, they come from inside my head. If you can imagine what it would be like to have esp, you get an idea of what I hear. It’s like someone is sitting or standing next to me, talking to me mind to mind. The voice is gender-neutral , and loud enough to hear over the sound of other people talking. Sometimes it gets louder, as if it is shouting, but it never whispers. The voice makes observations of its surroundings, asks me to ask various people questions, comments on things people say, and is especially interested in what people are wearing.

Some people point out that they hear a voice too. They say the voice I hear is actually my subconscious. But they can’t understand what I mean when I say I have esp with the voice. And my esp didn’t start until I had my psychotic break. In fact it is a residual effect of that break.

I had a fascinating conversation with a young woman who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder fairly recently. We compared what it is like for each of us to hear voices.

In her case, she hears voices from the outside in. And they’re voices of people she knows. So imagine you’re looking out at a car in a parking lot. You can’t see through the windows of the car. Suddenly, you hear the voice of your friend coming from behind the car. You would swear that your friend is calling to you from behind the car. But when you approach the car, there is no one behind it. That’s what she means when she says she hears voices.

When I heard her story, it made me thankful that if I have to hear voices, I hear them the way I do. When I hear my voices, I have no illusions that they are real. She, on the other hand, never knows until she can physically see the location the voice is coming from.

She has difficulty telling what is real and what isn’t. When she hears someone talking to her, she doesn’t always make the distinction between what they are saying when they’re standing in front of her and what they say when she can’t see them. The memory of what they say stays with her, real or imagined. And the things they say are not always positive. So she gets the impression that people are saying things that aren’t nice , and that maybe they don’t really like her, because of what she hears them say when she can’t see them. She only hears people she knows. I on the other hand have never met the people whose voices I hear.
I am thankful that my voices are so benign. The things they say are actually rather boring to me. I don’t question whether they like me. It doesn’t matter to me. And in fact they don’t treat me poorly. And they don’t show up until I am under stress. In that we are alike. Hers show up under stress also.

Stress seems to be the common denominator between us, bringing on the phenomenon of hearing voices.

Unlike her, I build my life around avoiding stress, with one exception. I force myself to do NAMI’s In Our Own Voice presentations, because I believe my momentary discomfort (if you can even call it that) is worth the price of educating people and removing stigma associated with mental illness.

In her case, she doesn’t  go out of her way to avoid stress like I do. She used to teach school, but now subs for other teachers, a job that causes stress. Walking into a class full of middle school children with only a lesson plan written by their normal teacher, complete with notes about which kids are difficult, isn’t for the faint of heart. And yet she continues to expose herself to stress because she loves what she does. It’s worth the price of hearing voices to her to continue.

We are each coping with our mental illness in our own way.  I wish her every success.

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?

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

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Committment Hearing, Delusions.
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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.

Hearing Voices Network August 7, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hallucinations, mental illness.
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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)

Hearing Voices June 26, 2013

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hearing Voices.
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human-ear-clip-art_421267Hearing voices means different things to different people.  In my case, it means that a voice inside my head talks to me.  It isn’t a woman’s voice or a man’s voice.  It has no pitch, but the words are distinct.  Although the words are coming from inside my head, the perspective is that of someone standing or sitting next to me or walking alongside me.   If I’m alone, the voice makes observations about my surrounding area or my life in general or makes statements about things.  If I’m with another person, the voice tries to tell me what to say out loud.  It asks me to ask that person questions or asks me to make observation statements to them. That failing, the voice makes observations about my environment.

People are surprised that I still hear the voices, despite the fact that I know they aren’t real.  They think I should be able to make them go away simply by telling them they aren’t real.  It seems logical that it would work that way, but in fact it doesn’t. In the beginning, I spent a lot of time arguing with the voices, telling them I knew they didn’t exist.  But it didn’t do any good. They talked anyway.  In fact, I got in arguing matches with them, which probably isn’t a good idea.  They outlast me. They always win the argument, and I think their interaction with me to the degree an argument requires simply adds more stress to the situation.

I know that some people think the questions or thoughts from the voices are actually my subconscious, but I disagree.  The voice’s questions and statements are not part of my regular thought pattern.  It is as if there is another person inside my mind, doing and saying things on their own.  There’s someone foreign in my mind with me, and they won’t go away. I can’t integrate their thoughts into my own, because their thoughts are separate from mine. If the voices were truly just a part of my subconscious, they would be able to read my mind. But they can’t.  They have no idea what I’m thinking.  They’re a separate entity entirely.

I am fortunate that the voices don’t tell me to harm people or myself, and that the comments and questions are innocuous at best and annoying at worst.  The scary part is that when the voices return, it’s as if there is someone else in my head- an alien of sorts.  I can’t have my mind to myself, and the voices crowd out my own thoughts.  I miss being inside my head alone.

When I reduce my stress level, the voices fade into the background and eventually disappear.  But when my stress level increases, the voices return.  At first they’re just there occasionally, but the more severe the stress, the more of my mind they inhabit.  They take over more of my day, crowding out my own thoughts, until the stress dies down.  Then they’re gone again for awhile, until the next set of stressors arrives. It’s been this way since I got out of the mental hospital, which was five years ago on the 18th of this month (June 2013).

I know my family is afraid of the voices.  Actually they’re afraid that the voices will displace my mind entirely and that the voices won’t let me back into my mind.  But I have confidence that my psychiatrist will be able to make them go away if they get too powerful.  He did that for me when I was hospitalized, and I trust that he can do it again if he has to.  The only thing I have to do to keep them from taking over is to watch my stress, but that’s easier said than done in life.  Things happen that I can’t control.  And that’s a bad thing because it brings the voices back.  But so far, I have been able to return to my mind, alone, after the stress goes down.  So far so good.

Chenille: Reality Check Service Dog December 16, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, mental illness, Uncategorized.
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RandyI met the cutest service animal the other day at a mental illness support group. She’s a friendly, bouncy Chihuahua named Chenille.  I never thought about using a service animal for help with mental illness symptoms, but that’s exactly what she is.   She is a reality checker for her master.

As with many people suffering from mental illness, her master’s symptoms include hallucinating. He sees people and things that aren’t there and hears things that aren’t there. Her job is to help him determine what is real and what isn’t.

For example, if there’s someone suddenly sitting in a chair in his living room that he’s never seen before, if she barks he knows it’s a real person.  If she doesn’t react, then he’s seeing someone who isn’t really there.   The same goes with noises.  Dogs are sound-sensitive, and if there’s a lot of racket or unexplained noise, the dog will react to it.  If someone calls his name from another room (and he thinks he’s alone in the house), and she doesn’t react, he knows he is hearing things that aren’t there.

What a relief it is to be able to tell reality from fantasy by using the unbiased opinion of a dog.

People not suffering from mental illness take for granted their ability to tell reality from fantasy every waking moment. They can’t appreciate what a gift it is not to have to questions whether what they see or hear is real.  If the average person sees someone new sitting in their living room, he doesn’t even have to wonder whether that person is really there. But for people with certain forms of a mental illness, they can’t depend on their eyes to know whether that person is real. It is challenging to live in a world where your mind plays tricks on you.  You need help detecting reality. Who better than a dog to do that for you?

Imagine hearing a loud noise coming from the bedroom. Or hearing someone call your name from the room next door that you thought was empty.  There’s no one else with you in the house. Or is there? What would it be like not knowing the answer to that question on a regular basis?  A dog can be a lifesaver.

People who use the “reality challenged” phrase in jest might want to reconsider whether that term is appropriate, given the fact that certain people are living the embodiment of the true meaning of that phrase.  In order to leave a semblance of a normal life, they need a way to tell whether their perceived reality is real.

During the height of my psychotic break with reality, I met someone at a Starbucks for coffee who was probably not real. He was a green-skinned merman who I thought was my long-lost son from 500 years ago. Long story. But the point is that person was as real to me as anyone I have ever met.  I sat across a table and had coffee with him for several hours. Now at this juncture of my life, I realize I was probably one of those people you see who are sitting there in a restaurant talking to someone who isn’t there.  Imagine going through this every single day of your life.  You need an outside, unbiased source to tell you whether that green-skinned merman sitting across from you having coffee is real.  For my part, it never dawned on me that it could be anything but real. But what if it wasn’t?

This use of a service animal is a clever and fascinating way to help people manage the symptoms of certain mental illnesses.  This is the first time I have ever heard of this use. I wonder if more people could be helped by these service animals.

Anosognosia Rears Its Ugly Head (Again) October 17, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices, Insanity, mental illness.
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Anosognosia is the term for the most dangerous symptom of mental illness. It’s the belief that you’re not mentally ill and don’t need your meds.  I have been suffering  from this symptom a lot lately.  I have almost convinced myself that my diagnosis is a big mistake and that I don’t need my meds.  If I go off them, my memory and reasoning ability will return, as will my ability to get up at a reasonable hour. I will be employable once again, and because I’m so good at my job, I will easily find a position as a project manager and be back to my beloved profession, building buildings.  All of this is not possible while I’m on my meds.

I know consciously that going off my meds would be a bad idea, but because of this symptom, the concept seems perfectly reasonable.

Unlike many others, I have the sense to discuss my plan with my loved ones.

My sister, when confronted via phone with my idea, told me to open my copy of An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. It’s a book where Jamison details out what it’s like to have a mental illness. My sister pointed out that Jamison, like me, convinced herself  that she’s the exception to the rule of needing her meds. In her book, she goes off them and repeats her cycle of mental illness, finally coming to terms with it and returning to her meds.  Reading that passage gave me doubts about going off my meds. Maybe that wasn’t the answer, but maybe it was.

If I stop taking my meds, the voice will probably- but not necessarily-return. But I’ve been hearing that voice for years, so it’s not a big deal. In my mind, it doesn’t mean I’m psychotic. I can manage to keep living in the “real” world without my medication as long as I can put up with a voice. My backup plan would be a return to the mental hospital if my psychotic state returned.

Bouncing this idea off my husband brought up a little problem.  If I went off my meds, and a voice returned, wouldn’t this mean I was psychotic again? he asked.  I disagreed. One voice doesn’t make you psychotic. But  if the definition of psychotic excludes hearing one voice, then how do I know when I’ve crossed the threshold into my definition of psychotic again?  How many voices and delusions does it take to be psychotic?  And would I recognize it if it was happening? Therein lies the problem.

Between my sister and my husband, I gave in to their logic and stayed on my meds.  But the battle never ceases.

Sam the Psycho July 8, 2012

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, Insanity.
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Walking into the mental illness support group, I was surprised to see two teenage boys sitting side by side in our small circle of chairs. Very few young people come to support groups.

It was clear from Sam’s glassy and brilliant eyes that he was the one with the mental illness, and that his friend, Carl, had simply been the means of Sam’s transportation to the meeting. Later on, we learned that Sam’s mom had actually talked Carl into bringing Sam here. I surmise that Sam wouldn’t get in the car with his mom. Or vice-versa.

When Sam’s turn came to share, he said he was getting more violent against his mom, and that he was having trouble with his relationship with her. His principal complaint was that she didn’t agree with his religious views.

He claimed that he and God were buddies.  He also claimed to be possessed by the devil and demons. He said he was routinely roused from sleep by the demons’ violence against him.  They punched him and pushed him and yanked his hair while he tried to sleep. Oh yeah: and he said he wasn’t mentally ill. He was just possessed.

Initially, he and his friend sat quietly listening to the three of us share our stories. But as time progressed, Sam was increasingly claimed by his invisible friends.  Talking and laughing with them, he faded in and out of our reality.

Sam said he had been taking two anti-psychotics for 2 months. Based on his severe delusions and his statement that he wasn’t mentally ill, I seriously doubt that he was taking his meds at all. His friend said that Sam hadn’t been back to his psychiatrist since he had been given the anti-psychotics. I suspect that was by choice.

Leaving the meeting, I realized the danger Sam’s mother was in. I hoped she had a lock on her door. After all, her teenage son, known to be very angry with her, roamed around the house believing that he was alternately God’s best friend or possessed by the devil and demons. It isn’t a stretch to imagine him slipping into her room at night and slitting her throat or stabbing her as she lay sleeping, convinced that the devil and demons- and maybe God- had directed him to do it. She would be just another dead mother whose soon should have been committed to a mental hospital before he murdered her.