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The Mermaid and His Alien Baseball Team January 24, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, ESP, Hallucinations, mental illness.
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One morning, I was just finishing up swimming my laps (I thought I was a Mermaid) when I noticed a man getting into the lane right next to mine.  Rising to my feet, I told the swimmer that he could have my lane, as I was done swimming.

He thanked me, but he said that he didn’t like to swim in that far lane.  When I asked him why, he explained that it made him uncomfortable but he didn’t know why. I explained that he was probably sensitive to the energy buildup along the bottom edges and corners of the pool.  Instead of looking at me like I had lost my mind, he became very interested in what I had to say.  Fascinated, in fact. Wanting to discuss the  concept further,  he asked to meet me at a nearby Starbucks  in about 15 minutes, to have coffee and talk.

But I hadn’t left the pool yet. Dunking my head in the water to clear my mask,  I noticed the familiar faint green tint to his skin. He was a Merman.

Arriving at the Starbucks a bit early, I purchased my coffee and contemplated the logo on the cup. A two-tailed Mermaid. Hm. A Sign. I settled down to wait for my new Merman friend. Shortly  he arrived, purchasing his coffee and joining me at a small table by a fireplace, surrounded by other patrons.

Explaining that I saw the green tinge of his skin in the pool and that he was a Merman, I was prepared for him to walk out on me. But he didn’t flinch. Instead, he insisted that we move outside where we wouldn’t be overheard. Once there, he told me his little secret: he was a mind-reader.  Then he offered to demonstrate his skill, telling me to think of a word and to concentrate hard on that word.

As I sat across the table from him, I concentrated on the word “Abracadabra” as hard as I could, even mentally painstakingly writing the word on a blackboard in my mind, willing him to succeed.

Although he tried many times to come up with the word I was thinking of, he just couldn’t do it.  He didn’t even come close. Finally, he said had to leave. We parted, not even exchanging names or phone numbers. He didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know who he was. And that was okay by me.

But before he left, he told me about his Alien baseball team.  He said that there were lots of Alien baseball teams throughout the galaxy, and that they played each other in games that were similar to the ones played here on Earth. Then he offered to show me pictures of his Alien baseball team. When I assented, he pulled out his wallet and extracted several baseball cards.

On each card was a photo of an Alien dressed in a baseball uniform. The player’s name, unpronounceable, was written underneath the photo. Statistics and the player’s position were written on the reverse side. In all, the cards were virtually undistinguishable from regular baseball cards with the exception of the players. He explained that he owned an entire baseball team of Aliens, but he never told me where the games were played or invited me to watch a game with him.

The next day,  the word “Abracadabra” was written in blue letters on a whiteboard hanging on the wall. I was shocked. Directly below that word, written in green,  was another word:  dandelion.  Clearly the Merman had returned to the pool and had written the words on the whiteboard. I understood writing the word that was in my mind, but I had no idea what the word dandelion meant. Then it came to me: that was the Merman’s name. Dan De Lion.

Was Dan De Lion real? I don’t know.  If he was, then he was as mentally ill as I was.  If he wasn’t real, then I was one of those people you see sitting in restaurants talking to themselves.

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Hearing Voices and A New Identity September 16, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, ESP, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
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I admit the first time I heard the voice of my boss, Mark, while driving down the freeway alone in my car, I was surprised.  He wasn’t in the car or on the cell phone, and yet he spoke to me as clearly as if he were sitting next to me. I realized immediately that I had a special power: ESP. It didn’t seem unusual at all to be gifted with special powers, and it didn’t even cross my mind that I could be mentally ill. I was simply gifted.

I assumed from the very first time I heard Mark’s voice that I had control of my ESP. I assumed that I would be able to simply stop hearing the voices whenever I chose to, and that was how it worked. At first.

Then things changed, and suddenly I was no longer in charge.  The voices were. As the voices slowly increased in number- around 50 at the high- they also increased their grip on my mind, ultimately refusing to leave. When I eventually begged and pleaded with them to leave, they wouldn’t go away.  That’s where the strength of my personality played into the situation.

I should have been terrified when the voices wouldn’t leave. I should have sought immediate medical intervention when I felt my mind being smothered by theirs, wrapping their thoughts around mine and choking me off  like morning glories on a rhododendron.

But because of the nature of my personality, I felt strong enough to handle the situation. I had always succeeded in everything I had undertaken before, so this wouldn’t be any different. I fought hard to keep a sense of self, knowing that I would prevail, despite the increased smothering of my ideas by theirs. To keep things from unraveling, I learned not to express fear. To express fear brought on the evil voices. But to embrace the voices with love kept the voices slightly off-balance. Where there should have been fear in me there was a sort of pity for them.

My saving grace was that the voices never learned how to read my own independent thoughts. This situation is hard to articulate even now, but suffice it to say that they tried to smother and replace my thoughts with their own, but they never knew what my thoughts- my real thoughts- were.

Trying to maintain my separate being from being taken over by the voices was like being in a room with someone fighting for possession of increasingly more space. Never satisfied with taking just a part of the room, they moved their line of possession to increasingly larger sections of the room. As long as I could maintain even a tiny portion of the room, I could hold on to my identity.  That was what protected me from total destruction.

Eventually, the voices took over my entire mind, cleanly breaking my mind off and replacing it with their own, plunging me into a total and complete break from reality. Their reality became my own.

In the days and hours before my involuntary commitment to the mental hospital, my independent personality was a sliver of what it had been before the mental illness took over. As my husband drove me to the emergency room, the last shreds of what used to be me disappeared, replaced in totality by Pangea the Mermaid, the identity of the new inhabitant of my body. The old Kathy was lost forever.

Only strong medication administered in a mental hospital under constant supervision broke their thoughts from my mind. But as their claw-like grip on my mind receded, what remained in the room was not what used to be there. The thoughts that took over my mind also took over my identity, and the medication that wiped out Pangea never replaced it with the old Kathy. My former personality was destroyed first by the voices and then by the medication. The mind emerging from the tunnel isn’t the mind that entered it.

As you might imagine, this situation created an identity crisis of major proportions. I’m not the old Kathy, and neither am I Pangea.  I’m someone entirely new. And that’s where therapy comes in.  My therapist has slowly, over a two year period of time, helped me define and identify who this new person is.  I hate to think about how empty my life would be  without the help of my counselor. Her assistance in rebuilding me from scratch has made life worth living for me and my friends and family.  Without her help, I would be in a horrible place- neither one nor the other. Now I realize that I’m not Kathy 1, and not Pangea. I’m Kathy 2, and that’s just fine.

Which Medical Condition Is the Worst? July 15, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices, Insanity, mental illness, Psychotic, Schizophrenia.
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If you had to guess which medical condition was the worst, which one would you pick?

Most people’s thoughts would go immediately to the most widely publicized, the disease advertised as the most painful and deadliest of all diseases: cancer.  With pancreatic cancer, the victim suffers prolonged agony, relieved only by colossal injections of pain medication, until finally he expires, leaving his cancer-ridden body once and for all.  The worst possible disease, some would say.

Many would choose Alzheimer’s disease as the worst disease.  Your mind slowly loses memory, forgetting things and people and places. Eventually, your heart “forgets” to beat, and you pass on, leaving a wake of pain and suffering by your loved ones.  Because you generally become less aware of your surroundings as time goes by, and because the deterioration happens over years or even decades, the pain and suffering are felt more by your family and friends than you.

Some would say that Lou Gherig’s Disease, also known as ALS, is the worst. Like Alzheimer’s, your body slowly forgets to function, but unlike Alzheimer’s, your mind works perfectly.  The result is a little like waking up in the middle of a surgery, and being unable to communicate to the staff that you are awake. Your body is paralyzed, but your brain is wide awake. Thankfully (or not), death is generally relatively quickly.

Others would say that a stroke is the worst, for reasons similar to ALS. Your mind is generally awake, but your body is unable to communicate that awareness to the world at large. Thinking that your brain has turned to mush because you undergo the humility of wearing diapers and eating baby food,  your family may treat you like you’re a piece of furniture, or as if you’re an infant. Unable to communicate your complete awareness to them, you suffer for years or even decades in silence.

As the worst possible disease, mental illness isn’t even on most people’s radar. But consider, for a moment, the facts.

One of the problems is that unlike cancer, mental illness has a lousy public relations campaign. It doesn’t have a public personality attached to it- at least nobody positive. There’s no Lou Gherig or Lance Armstrong or Stephen Hawking to bring a sense of empathy to the masses. Unlike breast cancer, hundreds of millions of dollars aren’t spent on events to publicize mental illness- events like the Susan G. Komen Walk for the Cure – where the color pink has come to symbolize breast cancer in everything from headbands to hand mixers. Unlike Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong cancer campaign, where yellow bracelets signify triumph over cancer, there is no public campaign for the little plastic bracelet color for mental illness awareness (silver). In fact, because of its enormous stigma, you would be hard-pressed to find many victims and family members willing to take the spotlight for mental illness.

Everyone recognizes that the term “cancer” is a blanket term for a multitude of illnesses all sharing the same basic characteristic: improper cell division. Unlike cancer, the general public doesn’t perceive mental illness as a blanket name for illnesses caused by improper brain chemistry. Both are breakdowns of normal bodily functions, yet cancer doesn’t have the reputation of being a character flaw or a sign of moral bankruptcy that mental illness does.

Patients with cancer are not embarrassed to tell their friends and family their diagnosis. They aren’t afraid of being thought less of as a person for that diagnosis, that somehow they fell short. But with mental illness, the stigma is so great that the fear of rejection and isolation is a legitimate concern.  You just don’t tell anyone.

Because their loved one’s illness isn’t associated with moral bankruptcy and character flaws, friends and relatives of cancer victims don’t have the same incentives to keep anyone from knowing their loved one has cancer. Protecting themselves from the unspoken charge of moral bankruptcy by association isn’t a top concern of the families of cancer patients.

Other diseases, like cancer or ALS or a stroke, don’t cause its victims to commit heinous crimes.  You don’t see a breast cancer victim as the lead-in story on the nightly news because she murdered a bunch of school children. You don’t hear about a stroke victim trying to assassinate the President. A lung cancer victim doesn’t jump off a bridge to get away from the voices in his head. And yet the connection between these types of actions and mental illness, if the news media even bothers to make one, is voyeuristic rather than sympathetic.

People with cancer or ALS or all of the other diseases are aware that they are ill and need treatment for that illness.  In many mental illness cases, this is not true. The mentally ill patient, in many cases, has no insight into the fact that he is mentally ill and need treatment.

No legitimate insurance company would dare decline to authorize or pay  for mainstream treatment of a cancer victim, but most insurance companies have little or no such coverage for mainstream treatment of mental illness, reasoning that it isn’t, after all, a real physical illness. If they do cover it, it’s under a separate policy from “physical” health, called “Behavioral Mental Health”, and the payment for treatment and disability from the disease is very limited.  We don’t see major insurance companies splitting off cancer from a list of diseases, calling it “Cell Divisional Health”, severely restricting its access, and farming out its administration to an entirely separate company.

When it comes time for hospitalization, there isn’t a question of whether a cancer victim or stroke victim even needs to go to a hospital. If they’re seriously ill, a cancer patient doesn’t have to be at death’s door before he’s admitted to the hospital. But a mentally ill victim has to either be about to hurt or kill himself or others (as determined by a third party) or needs to have tried (and failed) to kill himself before a mental hospital will consider admitting him.

If they’re hemorrhaging, but not near death, a cancer patient isn’t turned away for lack of space. Cancer patients don’t have to wait until there’s room for them at a hospital. Unlike hospital space for the mentally ill, hospital space for cancer victims hasn’t decreased over the past 20 years.

Alzheimer’s patients aren’t routinely discharged from hospitals onto the streets, left to fend for themselves. Cancer patients aren’t routinely discharged before they are stabilized. And yet the mentally ill are routinely discharged out onto the streets while they are still unwell all of the time. Who do you think the homeless people are?

The cancer patient doesn’t have to give up his civil rights in order to be treated. He can leave the hospital whenever he wants to. But in order for a mentally ill patient to be treated, he has to give up his civil rights. Mental patients are locked in, physically unable to leave the hospital until someone else- the attending psychiatrist- says they can go- however long that takes.

Once in a hospital, a cancer patient has the option to discontinue medication at any time. Again, a cancer patient doesn’t have to give up his civil rights in order to be treated.  Mentally ill patients, on the other hand, must leave their civil rights at the door when they enter a mental hospital. Whether they want to or not, they are forced to continue medication while they are hospitalized. That is the treatment.

Comparing the physical pain of the cancer or the effects of cancer treatment with the effects of mental illness is in some ways like comparing apples to oranges.  Whereas the cancer victim fights for her life, the severely depressed victim fights to kill herself.  Is the physical pain of cancer worse than the emotional pain of continually hearing voices in your head nonstop? Is radiation sickness worse than lithium side effects?  Is prostate cancer preferable to schizophrenia?

I’m not trying in any way to minimize the pain and suffering that these diseases engender. My point is that each of these diseases –all of them- including mental illness-engenders tremendous pain and suffering. None of them- including mental illness- is any less severe than any other.

For too long, mental illness has been a quiet disease. Quietly terrible, but still quiet.  This is a disease- or a family of diseases- on par with cancer and ALS and strokes, and yet there is a huge vacuum out there. Nobody even thinks about mental illness as a true physical disease. It’s not even on the radar. This needs to change. We need to raise people’s consciousness about mental illness, and give it the parity it deserves.  We’ll know we’ve done our job when “mental illness” takes its rightful place on the list of Terrible Diseases in the public consciousness.

My Own Voices Return (Again) July 7, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Mental Illness and Medication.
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My sleep cycle got off a few days ago when we were camping.  I was sleep-deprived more or less when a 1 ½ year old boy belonging to one of the families we were with kept waking up about every 2 hours during the night. Combined with the inconvenience of sleeping in a tent in a strange place, my sleep and my schedule took a severe beating which meant that my stress level increased proportionally.  Not surprisingly, I began hearing voices again.

Although hearing voices would be scary to the average individual, someone like me, who has a history of hearing voices, isn’t frightened by them for several reasons. The first reason is that they’re relatively comfortable- like an old shoe. I’ve had them before, and I will probably have them again.  Secondly, thanks to my wonderful psychiatrist and counselor, I know that with proper treatment they will go away. Just how severe that treatment has to be to get them to leave is the real question.  Can I just reduce the stress and make them go away by myself, or do we need to escalate treatment up to the Haldol level or commitment to the mental hospital level?

Whenever I hear voices, I have an agreement with my family and physician. I must always tell my husband and sister, whether I want to or not. I realize that not telling them is a slippery slope, leading me back to the point where I once again get comfortable with them.  I want to discourage that mindset as soon as it starts to rear its ugly head.

Regardless of my own relative lack of concern, learning that I’m hearing voices again is always scary from my family’s perspective. Besides my family’s fear factor, one of the more unfortunate and upsetting points about hearing voices (for me) is that once again I have to come face to face with the fact that I have a mental illness.

Before the camping trip, I was feeling so good that it was easy to convince myself that I was no longer mentally ill.  Maybe, in fact, I had never really been mentally ill. Maybe it was all a mistake. Based on the relative stability of a couple of weeks or months,  I had convinced myself that I no longer needed any counseling and that soon I would be going off my meds entirely.

But now with this latest episode bringing back the voices, I must once again confront the fact that obviously am not “cured” like I thought I was, and that’s a major disappointment for me.   I really had myself convinced that I wasn’t sick any more.  I believed that I had grown out of my illness (or was misdiagnosed), and that very shortly I would be going back to my old way of living and working.   I thought I didn’t need my medications anymore because I was no longer mentally ill.  Things were going so well before the camping trip vacation that I really thought I had the illness under control and maybe whipped for good.  It was so nice to feel that good, looking forward to an illness-free future.

My latest episode of hearing voices returns me back to the point where once again I have to acknowledge that I have a mental illness and that I have certain limitations in my daily living.  I have to adhere to those restrictions or else I will find myself going back into my old psychotic ways.  Because I took action right away, although the voices came back, they weren’t nearly as loud and dominating as they used to be.  But when they returned, I realized that if I didn’t do something about them (get more sleep and reduce my stress levels as much as possible) the voices would increase in loudness and frequency, and it’s possible that I would find myself hospitalized once again.

And so yesterday afternoon I began my program of doing nothing, and today I continued that program.  The only thing I accomplished today was doing a blog on anosognosia, which is the inability of a person with a mental illness to realize they are ill.  It’s ironic that I did that blog, since I believed based on my own personal lack of symptoms for several weeks that I no longer had a mental illness. Because I had been symptom-free for so long,  I was so sure that I was no longer mentally ill that I was prepared to stop my medication because I believed that I was close to being “cured”.

It’s easy for me to understand how someone with a mental illness can be in denial.  It’s  a lack of symptoms kind of thing.  I think that’s what a lot of people on medication get caught up in.  It’s a logical point: If I take medication and I get better, then I actually get well entirely and no longer need that medication. Therefore, I can discontinue its use and return to my old way of life. It’s a cause and effect thing. No symptoms for a certain amount of time means that I am no longer ill.  It’s such a symptom-driven illness that the absence of the symptoms indicates an absence of the illness itself.

And so, it’s not particularly surprising to learn that roughly 70 percent of people with mental illness stop taking their medication at some point in their life.  We so badly want to be cured that we wish ourselves into being cured.  In my own case, I was really, truly symptom-free for weeks  (which is forever in the mental illness realm).  No voices, not even a hint.  And with a little lack of sleep and stress, a cocktail of mental illness symptoms raised its ugly head.  That fast.

Of course, going off my medication, had I decided to go that route, would have doubtlessly put me back into a severe case of psychosis, bringing me to the point (possibly) of hospitalization.  At the end of the day, I would have returned to a much stronger cocktail of medication designed to make the psychosis, whatever its form, go away, along with the voices that would surely accompany it.  It likely wouldn’t have taken me long to fall back into that abyss of voices and psychosis. And what a horrible thing that would have been to do to my family.  So I’m glad that I had that little episode while camping. It kept me from having bigger problems than just a few voices.

Suicide: Opting Out of Hearing Voices March 5, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Suicide.
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As my psychosis progressed, I became increasingly more frustrated with the voices in my head. With me from the time I woke up to the time I went to sleep, their incessant talking was driving me crazy.  I couldn’t be alone in my head. There was always at least one person- and most times more- with me in my head.  It was like being at a perpetual party where the guests never left.  It was never quiet.  Finally, I decided that I had had enough. They needed to leave.  All of them.  So I started out by politely asking them to go away.  They ignored me.

When that didn’t work, I used the mean route.  I was nasty to them, answering their questions with rude comments or ignoring them.  Fortunately for me, they never had been able to tell what I was thinking. Nevertheless, their incessant chatter wore me down. And, to make matters worse, they began to treat me the same way that I had treated them.

Failing the other attempts,  I begged them to leave.  I pleaded with them.  I told them that if they really cared for me, they would leave me alone.  I tried to reason with them, doing everything that I could think of to get rid of them. Despite my best efforts, they remained.

Then, they started filling my head with nightmare-type thoughts.  Devils, blood, stabbing people, gore- that sort of thing would pop into my head.  I was a little afraid, not knowing whether I was going to act on any of it.  But I knew it was them, and not me, putting those images in my head as punishment. They were trying to control me with fear. It came close to working a few times, but in the end I was not going to let them win.

My choices, as far as I knew, were to live with the voices in my head for the rest of my life, to tell someone about the voices and be locked up in an insane asylum for the rest of my life, or to commit suicide.

As the voices continued to take their toll on me,  the suicide option soon began to look good. Except for its effect on my family, that is. Strangely enough, it didn’t dawn on me how terrible their lives would be without me.  My sole concern was protecting them from the embarrassment of my suicide. I was obsessed with making my suicide look like an accident. Then I came up with the perfect scenario. Hitting a bridge abutment at 60 miles per hour late at night fit the bill nicely. I would, I hoped, die quickly and painlessly, and it would look like an accident so my family would be spared of the pain associated with suicide.   It was like one of those “death with dignity” situations- at least in my mind.

Armed with my new plan, I presented the voices in my head with a choice. Either they leave- forever- or I’d hit the bridge abutment.  One way or the other, they were going to leave.  If they stayed, I would kill myself and they would lose the body they were inhabiting. If they left, they would also lose the body they were inhabiting.  Leave or else.

The first time I threatened them, they left for several days. But then they returned. I threatened again. They left again (for a shorter period of time) and returned. Soon, my threat started to lose its power. In the end, they came to believe that I didn’t really mean it.

I came very close several times. Driving down the road at night, looking for overpasses, I almost turned the wheel many times. It wouldn’t take much. Just a slight adjustment of the steering wheel and the voices would be gone forever. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it.  I chose insanity over death.

NOTE: My suicide- had I committed it- would have appeared as an accident because absolutely nobody knew about the voices and delusions at that point.

I Learn I’m A Mermaid March 3, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
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This is what it’s like to experience a psychotic episode.  This scene really happened during my psychotic break.  Setting the scene: I have ESP, and I’m conversing with Claudia and Mike, both voices in my head,  via ESP.  Neither Claudia nor Mike are real people in the real world. However, they’re real to me, despite the fact that I can’t see them.

Me: Hey Claudia. What’s up?

Claudia: Kathy, I have something very important to tell you.

Claudia:  Mike and I have been talking it over. And we both agree.

Me: Agree on what, Claudia?

Claudia: Kathy, you’re a Mermaid.

Me: I’m in no mood for jokes, Claudia.

Claudia:  This isn’t a joke, Kathy. Just listen to me for a minute.

Mike: It’s really not as far-fetched as it would seem.

Me: If I’m a Mermaid, how come I didn’t know it?

Claudia: Your name’s not really Kathy. It’s Pangea.

The minute that she said that, I knew that it was true.  I had just forgotten. But something puzzled me.

Me: Why did it take me 48 years to figure that out?

Claudia: That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s because you lived downwind from Hanford when you were very young.

Hanford supplied plutonium that was used to make the atomic bomb that was dropped on Japan in World War Two. The whole area is radioactive. And my family and I  lived there back in the mid 1960’s when I was 5.

Claudia: The radiation at Hanford wiped your memory.

That made perfect sense. It explained why I hadn’t remembered that I was a Mermaid. With Claudia’s help, as I began filling in the blanks, I knew that she was right.  I was a Mermaid. I had always been a Mermaid. The only problem was that my Mermaid memories had been stripped from my mind by the radiation at Hanford.  It all made perfect sense.

Claudia: I’ve seen my share of Mermaids, and you fit the bill perfectly, Kathy. There were so many clues that I’m surprised you didn’t remember before.

Me: What kind of clues?

Mike: You have the coloring of a Mermaid. Long reddish blonde hair, green eyes. Classic Mermaid.

Me: And what else?

Mike: And you weigh more than you look.

Now how did he know that?  I hadn’t told anyone that I had always been confused about my weight. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I didn’t see the overweight person that the scale said I was.

Claudia: The reason your scale doesn’t make sense is because it’s weighing your tail.

Me: My tail? What tail? I don’t have a tail.

Mike: Yes you do, Kathy. Or I should say Pangea. And it’s a lovely tail.

Mental Illness and Stalking February 25, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hearing Voices, mental illness, Psychotic, Stalking.
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Stalking is a matter of perspective.  From the standpoint of the stalker stalking a celebrity,  the stalker is convinced  that he has a very real, very personal connection to the person he’s stalking. He would be shocked to learn that what he’s doing- trying to fulfill the celebrity’s perceived request for that contact-  is viewed by law enforcement as well as the celebrity in question as stalking. How can it be stalking, he reasons, when the person he’s accused of stalking wants desperately to see him? It must be a misunderstanding.

When I was slipping into the final stages of my delusion (right before I was involuntarily committed to a mental hospital) I was absolutely convinced that I had ESP, and that Bill and Melinda Gates were among my many friends-including the Dalai Lama and Oprah Winfrey-  who talked with me via ESP (voices in my head).  I used to make beaded jewelry, so it wasn’t surprising that (as part of my delusion)  Bill and Melinda Gates had heard of my jewelery-making prowess, and begged me to make some jewelry for them.

I agreed to their request, provided they give me direction on their tastes.  One of the capabilities of people who shared ESP with me was their ability to see the world through my eyes. Literally. It’s kind of complicated to explain, but suffice it to say that they saw everything that I saw.  So it was natural for Bill and Melinda to wander around the bead shop with me, picking out beads for their own special necklaces as if they were actually in the room with me.  When Bill began picking out expensive stones, I balked. But  Bill assured me that price was no object, since he (the richest man in the world) would be reimbursing me in the very near future for the money I spent.   Payment from Bill established  for sometime in the near future, “we” roved the store selecting expensive stones for their necklaces.

“We”  returned to my home where I spread the expensive loot  out on my kitchen table and began putting the necklaces together with “their” direction.  When “we” finished the jewelry,  “we” discussed how they were going to get the necklaces from me.  Should I mail them?  Should I send them via UPS?  Should I send them to their house in Medina? Or to Microsoft’s campus in Redmond?  At first,  “they” directed me to mail them to the Gates’ in care of their (real) nonprofit organization, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After further discussion, “we” agreed that I would give the necklaces to them when I met them in person, which was going to be in the very near future.   Fortunately, I ended up in the mental hospital before I could do any real damage.

It is easy for a delusional person to cross the line into what appears to the real world as “stalking”.  I had lost touch with reality to the point where I was convinced that the Gates’ wanted their jewelry so badly that had “they” insisted, I would have, without question,  driven to their home in Medina (about 20 minutes from my home) with the intent of personally delivering the necklaces to them as they had requested. I would have been absolutely convinced that they were desperate for my jewelry, and wouldn’t have believed anyone  who tried to tell me differently.  Had I followed that plan of action (rather than wait to meet them as we finally agreed), I would have been  carted off to jail, labeled a stalker.  But in my mind, I would have been absolutely certain that the Gates’ were dying to see me, and I would have insisted that this was so.

In revealing this very personal and embarrassing episode that was part of my psychotic delusion, I hope to show how easy it is for someone suffering from delusions to become a stalker. I ask for the law profession to understand that when they are investigating a stalker, in reality they’re likely with a delusional mentally ill person.  I ask for them to show that “stalker” some compassion by getting an immediate psychological evaluation before sending him off to jail. With proper medical intervention, their  delusion, like mine, will evaporate and the psychotic individual will return to the real world.  And when it’s all over and they’re medicated and back in their right mind, they, like I,  will be extremely embarrassed and ashamed of their behavior.

Mental Illness and Weight Gain January 14, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Hearing Voices, mental illness, Weight Gain and Mental Illness.
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Fat Fat Fat

Getting enough meds in me to keep sane and yet relatively un-blimpo is quite a balancing act.

Most mood stabilizers and antipsychotics are well-known weight gain drugs.  The “big names” like Lithium, Lamictal, Risperdol, and Seroquel are all famous weight gainers.  I was on three out of four.

Because I was on major quantities of Lithium (900 mg) while at the hospital for my three week “vacation”,  Dr. K, my new (at the time) psychiatrist,  went to work on the weight gaining aspect of my medications immediately after I left the hospital, weaning me off the massive quantities of Lithium and onto Geodon, the only anti-psychotic that doesn’t cause weight gain.  The process took months to accomplish.  Because I had to be relatively stable in order to accomplish the switch, the process took longer than it “should” have, having to arrange itself around my various “falling-down” eposides.  Saying the progress was not uniform is an understatement. There would be forward progress,  then an incident that caused back-peddling, then forward progress, then backpeddling. Back and forth for months and months, until finally, *we got entirely on the Geodon. All was well for several months.

But about 6 months into the “complete” Geodon  regimen, I heard what we called “break-through voices”, which means in layman’s language that the Geodon failed to work.  So Geodon was out.  And Lithium, though very effective for voices, has too many terrible side effects, so we didn’t want to return to that, although there was no doubt that it would have gotten rid of the voices. That left some brand new drugs with fewer side effects, but those newer drugs had price tags in the $500 a month and up range (all out-of-pocket), so my husband and I decided that they were out for financial reasons.  That left Risperdol, which was an older, effective, but weight-gaining, drug.

So I was weaned off the Geodon and onto the Risperdol, which took  time. You don’t just suddenly stop taking one drug and get the effects out of your body immediately or start taking one drug and get it up to full strength immediately.  Most mental illness drugs don’t work like that.  It took several months for the Risperdol to build up enough in my system so that we could begin reducing the level of Geodon. Again, there would be backsliding while the switch was being made.  Finally, over a period of months, I was weaned entirely off the Geodon and entirely onto the Risperdol. Then it was a matter of finding out whether the Risperdol was going to work.  That was a matter of watching and waiting. Or in my case listening.

For months, the Risperdol worked just fine.  It worked so well, in fact, that we were able to reduce my dose from 1 mg down to .5 mg, and then to .25 mg, with the intent of eliminating the drug altogether in the relatively near future.   But before that could be accomplished, I had a little “bump in the road” incident a few months ago. So instead of discontinuing the drug as planned, we raised it back up to .5 mg. That was supposed to be a temporary thing.

Before we could lower the dose back to .25 mg, I had a major setback about a month ago.  Suffice it to say that the voices came back so strongly that it was back to the Haldol  (the nastiest drug in the universe)  as we contemplated a return to the mental hospital. That’s how bad the symptoms were.  (Note: There was a major trigger to the incident, so it wasn’t that the drug was failing. It was that the trigger was too strong).  But as Dr. K and I talked it over, we decided that instead of continuing on Haldol (which I despise) or hospitalization, we would triple my dose of Risperdol and see if that worked before trying hospitalization or more Haldol.   So I went from .5 mg to 1.5 mg virtually overnight.  As it built up in my system the past four weeks, the voices have gotten quieter and quieter, finally tapering off entirely about a week or so ago.  That’s all to the good. But there’s a down side to the Risperdol:  Weight gain.

Until my Risperdol was tripled, I had come to relative terms with my appetite, despite the fact that I was on all of those other weight-gaining meds, including Seroquel, Lamictal, and a smaller dose of Risperdol.   I was taking Welbutrin in an effort to combat some of those pesky appetite-increasing side effects, and it was working fairly well.  But then the triple dose of Risperdol kicked in, and I gained about 4 lb in about 4 weeks. Not good.  I saw Dr. K yesterday, and I told him how out of control my appetite is. I can’t stop thinking about food food food. When’s my next meal? How much can I eat? How many calories have I had already? And on and on and on every second of every minute of every day.  He was concerned, as am I.  Concerned enough that we brainstormed solutions.  I talked about how well phen/fen worked for me back in the mid 1990’s.  He doesn’t like SSRI’s for me because they might flip me to mania, so we settled on Topamax, at least for now. So now, we’ve added Topamax to the mix in an effort to get the weight gain under control.

Dr. K’s not thrilled about adding another drug to the mix (this will be #5), and yet we’re caught between a rock and a hard place. Trying to reduce the Risperdol and/or the other meds invites a return of the voices in full force.  Leaving the drug levels as is tips the scales to diabetes and all of the problems it entails.  So it all comes down to this: which is the lesser of two evils:  Voices or substantial weight gain?

In the end, we decided that adding that 5th  med is better than risking diabetes. So that’s the way we’re going.  The caveat is that instead of seeing me in 6 to 8 weeks, he’s seeing me in 2 weeks.  We’ll see how we do.

* I use the term “we” because Dr. K and I work together as a team. It’s not just “I” or “Him”. It’s “us” and “we”.  It’s been that way from the very beginning almost 2 years ago. I consider myself very, very fortunate.

Involuntarily Committed to Mental Hospital January 6, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, mental illness, Psych Ward, Psychotic.
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My husband knew that something was the matter, but had no clue what it was or the magnitude of the problem. He got a few glimpses here and there, like when I wrote a $55K hot check for a brand new Lexus, spent thousands of dollars on plants and flashy trashy new clothes, and started wearing garish makeup (ringing my eyes with a gold makeup crayon).  Or when I quit my job (managing a $55 million construction project and making over $100K a year) out of the blue. He knew that I wasn’t doing drugs or drinking, but still- something was very, very wrong.

I finally reached the flashpoint where I realized I could no longer tell reality from fantasy when I encountered an infestation of zombies at my neighborhood (YMCA) swimming pool. Dripping wet and still in my swimming suit, I drove myself home.  Scared to death, I begged my husband to take me to the emergency room after I told him I was hearing voices.  He didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell him, the nature of the voices or how long I’d been hearing them (3 1/2 months). He was just thankful that I had finally admitted to him that there was something wrong.

Once we arrived at the Hospital emergency room, I immediately changed my mind about wanting to be there.  Actually, the voices changed my mind for me.  At their direction, I tried to leave, but my husband cornered me like I was a calf at a rodeo. Finally, after taking off all my clothes in the women’s restroom (at the direction of the voices) and parading around naked in the waiting room (and refusing to put them back on or wear a blanket), as well as several escape attempts, I was put in a locked private room, alone except for a talking blood pressure machine, six imaginary people talking to me in my head, and an imaginary tree person drawing leaves and branches on the white walls.

They could guess, but they didn’t know, that I was having delusions, but they could never have guessed at the magnitude of the problem. In the meantime, the staff wouldn’t let me leave the locked room or tell me what was going on. I knew they couldn’t legally hold me, but they were doing it anyway.   I felt powerless. I believed they were trying to kill me by radiation so they could drop my dead body on Iraq as a weapon ( but I didn’t let them know that).  In frustration, I (at the direction of my lawyer, who was one of the voices in my head) threw a stool at the door, trying to break the little glass window in the door so I could leave. I was unsuccessful, only managing to make a few dents in the drywall around the door.

At the point I threw the stool, I unknowingly entered a new realm of law: involuntary commitment. I had crossed a line, demonstrating in concrete terms that I had become a danger to myself and others, and demonstrating to the hospital personnel that I needed evaluation by an independent (outside the employ of the hospital) licensed mental health professional to determine whether I had to be involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. The Hospital was required by the laws of the State of Washington to have a designated mental health professional interview me once the stool hit the wall.  Up until that point, the hospital would have interviewed me without the intervention of the mental health professional, and they would most likely have released me, because there aren’t enough (mental) hospital beds to handle all of the people who need care.

Telling everyone within hearing range that I was a mermaid, walking around the waiting room showing people my feet and asking them if they could see my fins, and even taking off my clothes didn’t demonstrate to anyone that I was a danger as defined by the State of Washington laws. Mermaids aren’t harmful, and believing you’re a mermaid isn’t against the law.  Even taking your clothes off in public doesn’t automatically qualify you as a danger. But throwing the stool changed everything. It gave the State the authority  to lock me up in a mental hospital. Once there, the mental hospital legally* held me against my will for 120 hours before they went before a judge to get a court order to hold me involuntarily up to 2 weeks.  Before the two weeks was up, they had to again go before a judge to continue holding me beyond that 2 weeks.  The second court order allowed them to hold me up to 90 days, but they only held me one week longer. I was out in 3 weeks.

*Note: By State of Washington law, the mental hospital can only hold a patient 72 hours before they have to go to court to get a court order. But that excludes weekends and holidays, which is why I was held 120 hours.

Waking Up in a Mental Hospital Psych Ward January 6, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Involuntary Committment, mental illness, Psych Ward, Psychotic.
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I awoke laying on the bed, covered by a sheet and a light yellow blanket. There wasn’t a soul around.   I had no idea where I was or what I was doing there. The last thing I remembered was being wrestled and pinned onto a red four-point restraining board at the hospital emergency room and then being strapped in and  shot up with some kind of drug. After that, I didn’t remember a thing. I didn’t know what day it was, or what time of the day it was.  I had no purse, no money, no identification.  No bra, no underwear, no shoes, no pants, no shirt.  Nothing but my hospital gown.  And my voices and delusions.

My rights had been taken away from me, for no reason.  I was a prisoner and I hadn’t even had a trial. I couldn’t go anywhere.  I couldn’t leave the locked room with the furniture bolted to the floor.  Even if I were allowed to leave, I had no clothes, no shoes, and no money.

Someone asked me later on if I was scared at that point. No, I wasn’t scared.  I was angry. No, I take that back. WE were angry.  All of my voices and I were very, very angry. We couldn’t get over the fact that wherever I was, I was being held against my will. I was being treated as if I had no rights.

I don’t remember exactly when I learned that I had been involuntarily committed to the psychiatric ward of a mental hospital. But I do remember that I simply couldn’t wrap my brain around the fact that in this day and age I could be whisked away illegally from my home and locked in a room with nothing but a bed bolted to the floor. I couldn’t believe it!  I was in shock.

It turned out to be the morning of the 29th of May 2008.  It had been 24 hours since I had entered a hospital Emergency Room.

Note: Under the laws of Washington State, the mental hospital could hold me for up to 72 hours against my will without having to undergo any legal proceedings.