Hi, there. Thanks for visiting. I'm starting this blog as an advocate for mental and physical health. I'm a freelance writer and also own a home based medical transcription business. I was diagnosed in 1978 with paranoid schizophrenia and started to become acutely ill three years prior to that, unmedicated, frightened, confused, and in trouble with the law. I graduated from university with distinction the year I became ill. I've never regretted learning how to think at university. I struggled with my illness for 35 years and have reached the top of the mountain now, I think, or the other side, where the grass is greener and the path easier. There's hope for all of us, the whole human race, and never think there isn't hope or joy no matter your circumstances. I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with mental illness in all its forms: depression, brain injury, autism, schizophrenia, bipolar, anxiety disorders, etc. and your positive experiences as well as those lies and half truths society and even therapists would have us believe about ourselves.

We are different folks, and we are beautiful. The whole human race is beautiful. Let's celebrate life.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Multiple Personality Disorder or Dissociative Disorder?

My poem "The Psychiatrist" was published this week in the provincial newsletter of the Schizophrenia Society of Alberta, the first issue for the provincial society and not just the Edmonton branch. Also three of my photos were featured, I note, although they didn't give me credit for them (that's okay, I submitted them to the Branch for their use after a BBQ this summer).

Writing is one of the few vocations where people don't look at you strangely if you say you're not paid, haha, but I still am waiting to hear about my book on SZ I co-authored with Austin Mardon and sent to a publisher a few weeks ago. It's called The Insanity Machine and watch for it because I'm sure it'll be published eventually. There's another one called The Jive Hive that's being reviewed by some middle readers as that's the market for that book, not about SZ at all, a SF/fantasy. I'd like to get a short story published, too. So far good luck with articles and poetry although haven't been paid for poetry.

I'd love to talk to an old friend of mine to whom I caused a great deal of grief in my crazy days. I had a dream last night that I was explaining to her the progress of my illness and it was comforting to me to at last be able to articulate and also of course, if it weren't a dream of my own making, I'd hear her side of it. Nothing can be done but patience in the case of a serious breakdown like I had 20 years ago, but apparently OCD had a lot to do with my behavior, and that makes a lot of sense now.

I also wonder, as I've wondered before, if I truly am SZ or if I'm multiple personality disorder or what they call dissociative something or other now? A friend mistakenly thought the book "Sybil" indicated that one of Sybil's personalities was SZ, and it wasn't, but perhaps one of mine was or is? And it's something I want to discuss with my excellent psych so I think I'll make an appointment tomorrow to see her at the end of the month if I can. If I'm patient everything may fall into place and I seem to make new inroads every week or two with understanding where I've been and where I may be going.

I sometimes feel overwhelmed with transcription work but surely that's normal considering the amount of work I have to do keeping up the writing end of my career, the fact that I'm older and perhaps slower now, and also I've been transcribing for many years and maybe just maybe am a little tired of the focus and repetition necessary. People who envy entrepreneurs who work at  home don't understand the discipline and cost needed. Emotional cost as well as financial, as I get paid only for the hours or minutes I actually work, and of course there's no vacation time or sick leave, and any time I take time off is time away from a paycheque. It never fails to amaze me how many people think it's easy and take a few months instruction then plan to make their fortune, I presume. 

Back to multiple personalities, I broached the subject with my psych way back in the 1980s and he didn't comment, just asked me if I had a name for my personalities and I said yes, one was The Buccaneer (a rather nasty individual) and the other gentle soul was named Mary. But my psych didn't pursue it nor did he comment further, and I just thought of it the other morning after I'd had the dream in which it was brought up again.

I understand that Dissociative Disorder is brought about by traumatic events in one's childhood so that the child tries to protect herself by isolating her personality that is being abused inwards and allowing another persona to take the brunt of the abuse. That's what I understand, if I'm explaining it properly. It results in a split. That could very well have happened. The theory is not accepted by every expert in the field and some say there's no such thing as Dissociate Disorder or Multiple Personality Disorder. I'm not sure if it's present in every culture but I've read that it's more prevalent in North America. It might be a case of over diagnosis.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

More Poetry for the Sad Mind

I wrote the first poem when I first became ill in 1975 or thereabouts, and the second only recently. You see, it took me about 37 years to become well. Now I'm starting all over again but in the future not the past. It's a new beginning and anyone can have a new beginning every day, but not everyone is as lucky as those of us who are the third of SZ who respond to treatment and become well. There are others who do not and I don't want to downplay their anguish and the impossibility perhaps of becoming more than they can become, as it may not be possible for them. Humbly I say, let's start over, and the families and friends of those who suffer, whether it be from depression, bipolar, SZ, anxiety disorder, OCD or brain damage, realize that their loved ones are not the person they once were and appear not to respond. It's important not to over protect our loved ones, but to let them know we're there to listen and help as far as we can if they ask us or need us. Somewhere in our brains there's a great collective recognition of love.

The Metal Foot
Take me not from gritty noon and silver shores, of innocence a footprint
In the sand.
For I follow, crippled, and my leg is bound with wire.
It sings, in agony, it blazes
In the sun.
For I follow, to the metal edge of day.

I see others, past the breakers,
And they seem to ride the wind
They come foaming from the ocean
But are gone before I turn.
(My foot is cramped and tender
But their song is not of pain).

Leave me to the brine and little boat; I will follow with my eyes
Though my heart is like an arrow
As you go.
For though I hobble, crippled, to the burning rim of Time
It would still be only half my journey done.
Take me not, therefore, from innocence (a footprint
In the sand)
For I follow, crippled, and my leg is bound with wire.
It sings, in agony, it blazes
To the metal edge of day.

The Metal Foot #2
The wire was twisted metal
But my leg has healed its sore
Like a boot of steel and plaster
Till my feet can touch the floor.

And the wind is running with me
While the scent of flowers play
With my friends who ride the breakers
With our faces bright with spray.

For this best of running coolness
And this newness angels put
I am flying I am singing
Through the metal cloven foot.

For my face is bright and yearning
And my legs are strong and brown
I run PAST those ghostly lovers,
High where the surf has blown.


Thank you for your comments and your concern about your brother. He is on heavy meds and probably can't think clearly because of that, not because of his bipolar, although it could be a combination of both. Perhaps his meds should be reviewed and he should be seen by an understanding therapist who'll help him to optimize his life, but I don't know the situation so can't really comment. I know when I was very ill everything related to me. That's normal for a very ill person as it's the brain that's dysfunctional in that case and therefore one's own brain is the focus, and how we think and feel. I'm very glad he has such an understanding sister and family, though, as that's important even though he might not show it. The poetry might touch him or it might not. I'm including a couple more poems I read to the Schizophrenia Association open house here recently.
I wish the very best for your brother. More later.

You who are Candy

You who are a delusion
I chased you through hallways of confectionary
Fast down the tanks of marshmallow crème
to chocolate covered daydreams far past
the bricks of sugar which implacably
you impersonated
all too well for my adolescent lust.

You knew that yet with candied orchids
poisoned sticks of mulberry still you
plied me with and then I
hallucinated and they told me
I was dangerous.

The Psychiatrist

She listens
while the sky rolls up like parchment
layers are revealed
hells and heavens tumble out
I wish I had a childhood
I could tell her.
The young warriors with their sex and drugs
cigarettes. They have the problem
Maybe they won't talk but we
Cradled in our hour she


No such thing as impossible, I said in my last post? Yes, of course there is such a thing as impossible. Note the Serenity Prayer used by 12 Step groups the world over:

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.

For most of my adult life I made a great many mistakes but they couldn't be helped. I was the victim of my illness. Now I can make amends by living it over in a future unfettered by OCD and delusional thinking.

I can woo again the gentle spirit of love.

The teachers who taught me to think are eclipsed only by those who taught me to feel.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Solution Focused Methods

This refers also to martial arts, which I'm interested in taking again; perhaps karate downtown this time rather than Jujitsu, which is so difficult to get to because it involves a lot of bus rides, walking, and cold dark nights in winter. I agree martial arts has a philosophy of deflecting the blows of one's opponents and using their own strength against them, focusing, all the Zen practices which are not mentioned in this article.

An interesting discussion with Katri on Google+ about choices, solution focused methods and how small actions consistent with aims contribute to one's future and can change it. We make choices in everything to coincide with an aim or not--making no decision is a choice in itself, we can't help but make choices.

This article mentions a couple of Australian aboriginal cultures. As an Anthropology major I am very interested in how the philosophies, lifestyle and spiritual practices of indigenous peoples affect their world and how we could learn so much from them. But Earth is resilient and will heal any scars we may think we're placing on her. She is our Mother Earth and will simply fold her wings over the damage and be here long after we are gone, perhaps a Paradise if we let her or perhaps simply a better future for the dolphins and whales, the insects, the creatures of natural selection and a more formidable intelligence than ours. And not so arrogant. The Greeks started this Western philosophy of control over our environment, bodies and other cultures with their dichotomy between mind and body.

Modern physics agrees with aboriginal philosophy; there is no dichotomy between mind and body, between choice and action. Zen and the Art of Archery was an interesting book I read as a younger woman in the 1970s. Focus and aim, the arrow will go true to the target, but it needs much preparation to achieve the focus. It only appears easy. Takes years of discipline and preparation, practice. Like the little boy said in Peanuts when Charlie Brown asked him how he played the piano so well when the black keys were just painted on? The little boy said, "practice."

There is no such thing as impossible. Mankind survived because of her intelligence. And so do we. Think think think.

Mother Earth, view from University of Lethbridge August 9, 2011
Right, professor? You must teach them to think.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Involuntary Treatment

This from the National Post, and I agree with the author. Without involuntary treatment I would not have been able to get on with life 20 or 30 years ago and be as well as I am today.

National Post  Jul 29, 2011 – 7:30 AM ET | Last Updated: Jul 28, 2011 4:07 PM ET
By Susan Inman
Our daughter doesn’t want you to protect her “right” to be mentally ill. Through no fault of hers, or ours, she has spent the past 11 years experiencing the extraordinary challenges of learning to live with a schizoaffective disorder. This illness, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has at various times thrown her into the horrors of prolonged psychotic episodes. Perhaps the most dangerous part of her illness is the fact that, when in the grips of a psychotic episode, my well-educated daughter is not capable of realizing that she’s ill.
Psychotic disorders present a unique challenge to the people who live with them and to the safety of the public. While people with these disorders who are being treated pose no greater threat than the rest of the population, research has clearly shown that people who are not being treated do have a higher rate of violent behavior. Many of these victims of mental illness end up committing crimes and are relegated to the penal system, where they become further damaged and isolated while making no progress towards a healthy, normal life.
We are currently hearing a lot of justified criticism in the media about the pathologizing of normal human experiences both by psychiatry, with its revision of the already problematic Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, and by pharmaceutical companies who want the public to take ever-increasing amounts of unneeded medication. These are

legitimate problems. But psychiatry and medication are still badly needed by some, those who suffer from genuine mental illnesses and would benefit from any of a number of readily available anti-psychotic medications.
There are many reasons that some people may be unable to obtain anti-psychotic medication. But there is also anosognosia. This well-researched neurological phenomenon means that 40-50% of psychotic people, due to their mental illness, are simply not able to understand that they are in fact sick. In these tragic cases, the only effective way to treat the illness is to force people to take medication. Many are uncomfortable with this approach, but when a symptom of the illness is a literal inability to realize that one is sick, there are no other logical options.
Forty four U.S. states have recognized that the only humane option in these cases is to force patients to be medicated, and have developed some form of mandated treatment. The Mental Health Commission of Canada, however, appears to be headed in a different direction. It currently is partnering with the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) on a research project looking at human-rights issues related to mental illnesses. The CMHA has a long-standing position, published on their website, opposing involuntary treatment. They believe that people must have the choice to reject treatment. They don’t discuss the indisputable research demonstrating how many people experiencing psychosis aren’t able to freely choose the option that could liberate them from the chaos of psychosis.
My daughter is the fortunate beneficiary of several excellent psychoeducation programs that exist in Vancouver for people with severe mental illnesses. These programs, which need to be better funded, help people learn to accept their mental disorders and better manage them. Despite our daughter’s very healthy acceptance of her quirky brain and her extensive knowledge about these disorders, during relapses her understanding of her illness vanishes; she counts on us to take care of her during these episodes and ensure that she isn’t left to deteriorate in an untreated psychosis. Current trends among people who want to protect her “human rights” will make it even more difficult than it already is to protect her genuine human right to be sane.