The Author

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Atlanta, Georgia, United States
I am overcoming schizophrenia, and I believe others can too. Here is how I am managing my condition...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why Do They Stop Taking Their Medication

Since medication is so important to the person with schizophrenia why do they stop taking their medication? As mentioned before in group we discussed the reasons why people with schizophrenia stop taking their medication, this is what we came up with:
  • They are discouraged with the improvements in their symptoms
  • They are in denial that they have a mental illness
  • They think you don't need the medication because they feel better
  • The harsh side effects such as tardive dyskinesia or abnormal involuntary movements (usually in the hands, feet, tongue, or lips), akathisia or restlessness, muscle stiffness, tremors
  • They have simply run out of medication
  • They can't afford the medication

There is hope. As mentioned earlier by Wandering Coyote (http://stigma-busters.blogspot.com/) there is an injection that people with schizophrenia could take. Risperidone or Risperdal Consta long-acting injection if the person has trouble taking the oral form of medication. The injections are performed by a health care professional usually every two weeks. Common side effects include (http://www.risperdalconsta.com/):

  • Constipation
  • Sleepiness
  • Weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Dry mouth
  • Rigid muscles
  • Feeling tired

Risperdal Consta long-acting injection is a great option for people with schizophrenia because it increases medicine compliance, which reduces hospitalization, and manages symptoms easier without having to worry about remembering to take the pill form of medication under daily basis.

Monday, September 29, 2008

California Advance Health Care Directive

In the state of California health professionals provide patients with an Advance Health Care Directive form. Doctors can give patients information and advice, however, the patient has the right to accept or refuse treatment. I think the Advance Health Care Directive is a proactive initiative that everybody should have.

The Advance Health Care Directive is a written statement that gives authority to another person in place of the patient, when they are unable to make medical decisions. If the patient is 18 years old or older and of sound mind they can complete the Advance Health Care Directive form. If you are too sick to make a decision, doctors will ask your closest relative or friend to make decisions for you. However, the Advance Health Care Directive prevents doctors from having to find the closest relative or friend to make decisions for you because your "agent" would already be stated in the form. The form is great because it states the kind of treatment you want and do not want. The Advance Health Care Directive can be revoked or changed at any time.

I do not know if other states have something similar to the Advance Health Care Directive, if they don't you should contact your doctor and let them know who you want to make health decisions on your behalf in case you are unable to.

I live in Atlanta, Georgia and do not know the laws surrounding this issue. However, I plan to talk to my doctor to let them know who I want to make medical decisions on my behalf.

Have you spoke to your doctor about who you want to make treatment decisions for you when you are unable?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lets Talk About It

Why don't people talk about schizophrenia? The public seems to overlook schizophrenia. I see commercials about bipolar disorder and depression, but not schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia affects 2 to 3 million Americans, yet many people do not openly admit to having the illness. And I do agree you should be selective on who you tell because of discrimination. There is a stigma attached to schizophrenia. Usually people think that individuals who have schizophrenia are violent, however this is not the case; they are usually victims of crime (The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia). They are discriminated against in housing and jobs, I have experienced this while looking for housing. The landlord would not rent the room to me because she thought the voices and my potential roommate would cause too much stress. Little did she know that I no longer hear voices because of my medication.

I think that people are afraid of individuals with a schizophrenia because they are ignorant of the illness. I am open about my illness because I know that I am not the only one with schizophrenia, and I am not ashamed.

Today my therapist told me she wants me to meet another young lady, like myself, to share my experience and to give her insight. The woman refuses medication yet is experiencing psychosis. I told her I would like to talk to girl. If I were to meet the girl I would tell her that a lot people have schizophrenia and you are not alone. I would tell her that I heard voices, experienced extreme paranoia, and was afraid of people because I thought they were demons. But I am okay now that I take medication.

In fact, my goal is to share my story with other people so that they will be educated about the illness and know the warning signs of mental illness. Some early warning signs I experienced was religious preoccupation, paranoia, isolation, and thoughts that I have special powers such as mind reading and discerning spirits. I have already started my mission by writing an article for MentalMeds News (http://mentalmeds.org go to articles, Issue 8 and read No More Voices, No More Demons).

What do you think about this?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Next?

You have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia or some form of mental illness, so what next? Here's what I did after my diagnosis...
  • Find a psychiatrist- someone who prescribes medication
  • Apply for social securitiy disability- you may need it if it is hard for you to keep a job due to disability
  • Apply for health insurance- it comes with SSI
  • Talk to a psychologist or therapist- they help you adjust to your illness
  • Join a peer group- NAMI (www.nami.org) has peer groups all over the U.S., join one
  • Learn about your illness- I found books and read information off the Internet
  • Take your medication- it is the most important thing you could do to recover
  • Stay positive there is hope with treatment
  • Build relationships with health care providers- I joined a peer group that is lead by my therapist and it meets under a weekly basis and I have a good relationship with my therapist
  • Be honest with health care providers- I have open dialogue with my health care provider because I know that they are there to help me
  • Journal- I write to keep track of my thoughts and emotions, it is also theraputic and relieves stress
  • Surround yourself with supporters- my family is my support group, they help me cope with this illness

What did you or your loved one do after the diagnosis? How do you or your loved one cope with mental illness?

Recovery-What does It Mean to You?

What does recovery mean? It asked this same question on the NAMI survey that will be ending September 30th. The survey rates states on public mental health care.

Recovery to me is getting your life back. Recovery is an ongoing process that demands attention and effort to maintain. It cannot be attained overnight. Recovery is a lifelong goal that requires steps to success. Recovery is living a healthy lifestyle emotionally, mentally, and physically. Recovery is:
  • Having a hopeful outlook on life in spite of having a mental illness
  • Feeling better about yourself
  • Playing an active role in the community by participating in clubhouses, peer groups, or other rehabilitation centers
  • Talking about symptoms with a health care provider
  • Being aware of your illness and not in denial
  • Performing some duty that makes you feel better about yourself such as volunteering or working
  • Being responsible by taking your medication
  • Making and maintaining relationships
  • Taking control of your attitude and behavior
  • Managing symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, and negative symptoms
  • Exercising your mind by taking on challenges such as meeting new people
  • Minimizing the voices
  • Reducing or preventing hospitalizations and relapses
  • Not being withdrawn from people who love you
  • Taking care of personal hygiene

I am at the beginning phase of recovery. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in the summer of 2007. I am not in denial about my illness. I am aware of my illness and I take steps to learn more about it by attending peer groups and participating in NAMI's monthly meetings. I have hope and goals such as completing my bachelor's degree in business and marketing. I have overcome hallucinations and delusions, and I am working on eradicating negative symptoms such as flat expression through medication. I am embracing the people that love me and I am not isolating myself from them. I am taking care of personal hygiene.

What does recovery mean to you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MentalMeds News Article-No More Voices, No More Demons

As mentioned before, MentalMeds News allowed me to write an article on my personal experience with schizophrenia. MentalMeds News contains information on medical treatment for depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, sexual dysfunction and other forms of mental illness. Below is some details from my article, No More Voices, No More Demons, however if you want the full version you should visit MentalMeds News and look at Issue 8 located at http://www.MentalMeds.org/ . If you are interested in the newsletters and want to get on the mailing list contact the author of the website, Kevin Thompson, PhD, at meds@mentalmeds.org.

The day of my breakdown, I remember feeling so intensely that demons were following me. I tried everything to get away and even tried to disguise myself. I thought if I held a cigarette, which I abhor, I could mislead them. I decided to get rid of my things that I carried with me at all times-my Bible and my glasses. I was about to cut off all my hair to diguise myself from the demons. When I spotted the sitting truck with the keys in it, I believed it was a blessing from God and a way to help get away. When I took the truck my intention was just to go to the store to purchase scissors to cut off my hair, and return it. I thought that everybody was a demon in disguise.

While driving the truck I remember feeling an outer body experience. I was not in control of the vehicle, and I felt that someone or something had taken over my body. I later learned that I was experiencing a split between realities. I had so many bizarre thoughts. When the police got their hands on me I was afraid that they were going to kill me. While sitting in the back seat of the police car I remember being afraid that the car would blow up. I prayed to calm myself down and hope for a miracle to stop the car from blowing up. I thought I was Jesus Himself and that people were out to persecute me. At the police station I stomped the floor to kill the bugs around me, which were hallucinations, and the police thought I was on drugs.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Detrimentally in Denial

"I am NOT sick!" I shouted at the nurse. "You are sick. We had to send you to the emergency room three times to stick an IV in you because you were not eating. Yesterday, the guard had to drag you in your chair back to your room because you would not get up and return to your room. You are sick," said Urwin... followed by my silence. "Will you please take your medicine now?" said the nurse.

There were so many incidents such as this that I am finally able to put together with the help of my family. On one of the incidents when I had to go to Court, I refused to put my shoes on. They did not know, nor did I, that I was catatonic. They ended up strapping me down to the wheelchair, arms and legs. I went to Court that day, barefoot. I learned from my mom that this was so unexpected by everyone and caused an uproad in the courtroom. This probably does not happen much but even the District Attorney, whose job is to slam me, remained silent and accepted whatever recommendations my attorney recommended.

My mother told me later, there was so much compassion, from the Judge, to the Bailiff, to the Court Clerk, and again, the District Attorney. This is the hearing where they requested Penal Code 1370, that made me incompetent to stand trial, and ordered a psychological evaluation to determine what they were going to do with me. My mother, my grandfather, and my aunt were in Court sharing this emotional moment. Well, emotional for them, but I was emotionally removed from the entire situation. My mother told me that while this court session was going on I sat in the wheelchair, still. Did not move, did not lift my head, nothing. She believed, in fact, that if a bee would have even stung me during this time, I would not have even flinched. Up until this time everyone believed I had been on drugs and that was my problem. My mother told them that I was antidrugs and NO, that was not the case, that I was sick.

Yes, I was catatonic, because I was praising God. I had remembered in my Bible readings that I was supposed to stay still and "praise God." I did not eat, because I thought they poisoned my food or that there were bugs in my food. I was not showering, because I thought that the soap would burn my skin. I was not taking care of myself.

"Ashley, you need someone to represent you, and whatever problems you have with me we have to deal with that later. But right now you're out there by yourself, you need to let me help you" my mother pleaded me.

I had a straight blank look on my face, and I ignored mother's advice, again.

Finally, they forced me, or court-ordered me, to take my medicine by having the SWOT team hold me down while the nurse gave me a shot in my behind. This routine went on for quite a while until I finally gave in and took the oral form of the medication. I found out later that my mother had to encourage my attorney to have the Judge actually mandate that I take medication because I was slipping away.

I am no longer in denial about my illness. I accept the fact that I have a serious mental illness, and that it requires medication to recover. I am taking a drug called Abilify that gets rid of my symptoms.

I am using this blog to heal, network, and to reach others out there with sicknesses. I never ever want to go back to where I was, hearing voices, etc. If there is anyone out there debating, or neglecting their medication, PLEASE take your medication. Where I am right now, versus where I was is like night and day. Now understanding that I am not completely healed, it is an ongoing process, but I would not be able to do the things I am doing right now without treatment.

There are so many other horror tales I could share with you and maybe I will as we go along. But, nevertheless, understand I am so thankful for medication.

Friday, September 19, 2008

THANK YOU For Your Support

I just want to thank everyone who has left a comment on my blog. When I first started this blog I did not know what type of response I would get, but now that I have the ball rolling I am very satisfied with the turnout. I hope this blog will help overcome some of the stigma attached to schizophrenia and encourage those living with a mental illness that there is hope. Thank you for your continuous support!

Common Misconceptions About Schizophrenia

There is a stimga attached to schizophrenia due to ignorance of the illness. Here are some common misconceptions about schizophrenia:
  • All people living with schizophrenia are violent. - This is a misperception pushed by the media. However, people living with schizophrenia are no more violent than the general population. In fact, they are more likely to withdraw from people out of fear when experiencing psychotic symptoms.
  • Schizophrenia is caused by dsyfunctional families. - It is nobody's fault why someone develops schizophrenia. However, conflicts make symptoms worsen and increase the risk of a relapse.
  • Schizophrenia is the same as split personality. - People with a split personality have a disorder called "dissociative disorder". People who have schizophrenia have one personality. The word schizophrenia means "split mind," psychotic symptoms make reality unreal to people with schizophrenia.
  • There is no hope for recovery. - There is treatment for schizophrenia, usually antipsychotic medications such as Zyprexa, Geodon, and Abilify. See the post titled, "Medication for Schizophrenia," for a list of other medications.
  • Schizophrenia is a curse. - Schizophrenia is a mental disorder caused by an imbalance in the level of dopamine, it is not a curse.
  • Schizophrenia must be treated by sorcerers and faith healers. - Schizophrenia should be treated by professional health care providers.
  • Drugs and alcohol can cause schizophrenia. - Some drugs make people develop symptoms similar to those found in schizophrenia, however when they cease using these drugs the symptoms stop.

Hopefully you have never heard of any of these myths, and if you have they are all incorrect. It is very important to be properly informed of the illness, especially if you have a loved one who is diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Resources

The Clubhouse- A Rehabilitation Center

The clubhouse is a community for people with a mental disorder. The clubhouse helps people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses readjust to life. The clubhouse provides numerous rehabilitation services such as the following:
  • Counseling
  • Educational Support
  • Employment Services
  • Housing
  • Recreation
  • Therapy
  • Other Services
Counseling is provided through peer groups that teach people how to cope and overcome anger management, domestic violence, manage symptoms, and substance abuse. Registering for high school or college enables members to get back into school. Educating people on how to obtain a job through resume help, interviewing tips, and application assistance. In addition to that having counselors seek jobs that meet the member's qualifications. The clubhouse provides resources to get affordable housing for independent living establishments and other housing options including welfare. Supervised leisure activities such as art classes, cooking, or an outing to the museum, or some other place for fun. One-on-one therapy with professional health care providers. Some clubhouses help you apply for Social Security Disability. Some services are mandated by the court in conjuction with probation.

The clubhouse is a great place for people with a mental disorder because it:
  • Educates you about your illness
  • Enables you to socialize with other people
  • Reduces your chances of going to the hospital
  • Reduces your chances of going to jail
Some clubhouse services are paid for by the county while others cost money.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

How To Cope With Stress

Random House Webster's Dictionary defines stress as physical, mental, or emotional tension. There are positive stress factors as well as negative stressors that may worsen symptoms in people with schizophrenia. However, this information is for everyone, not just people with schizophrenia.

The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia gives several examples of things that trigger stress which may include but are not limited to the following: a move, problem in a relationship, having a baby, getting married or divorced, starting a new job, experiencing a death in the family, or being ill.

The book goes further to identify signs of stress that include: headaches, indigestion, increased heart rate, or muscular tension. Problems concentrating, mood disturbance, becoming irritable, anxious, or depressed. Other behaviors that suggest stress are nail biting, restlessness, explosive outburst, drinking or using drugs.

Some coping mechanisms to overcome stress include:
  • Journal
  • Watching television or a movie
  • Playing a game
  • Exercising
  • Communicating the stress to a friend
  • Make or listen to music
  • Create or view artwork
  • Sleeping

How do you cope with stressful situations?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why Do I Need Support?

Having a support group or a friend other than your doctor is crucial to recovery. Here are some reasons why someone with schizophrenia should have a close friend or family member to talk to:


  • To relieve stress- because there will be times when you get frustrated with family or people at work and you need someone to talk to to relieve stress.

  • To help cope with symptoms- a friend could tell you that everything will be okay when you are feeling anxious or nervous.

  • To help recognize reoccurring symptoms- a friend could notice psychotic symptoms, such as paranoia or suspicion, returning and bring about awareness in order to respond in the correct manner.

  • To help prevent a relapse- a friend could notify your doctor or a member of your treatment team when psychotic symptoms continue. Or they could take you to the hospital when needed.

  • To remind you to take your medication- a friend could make sure that you are taking your medication.

  • To help recover from a relapse- a friend could help you readjust to your environment.

Although you may want to keep to yourself, it is imperative that you reach out to someone in order to have a healthy recovery.

Overcoming Panic Attacks and Anxiety

About 5 percent of the population will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. While 1 out of 75 people worldwide will experience a panic attack at one time in their lives. I am about to share some information with you that I learned from Dr. Angela Neal-Barnett's book Soothe Your Nerves.

A panic attack includes four or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Increased heart rate, heart pounding

  2. Sweating

  3. Trembling or shaking

  4. Chills or hot flashes

  5. Chest pain

  6. Shortness of breath or smothering

  7. Feeling dizzy or light-headed

  8. Upset stomach or nausea or abdominal distress

  9. Feeling of losing control or going crazy

  10. Fear of dying

  11. Numbing or tingling sensations

  12. Feeling that this isn't really happening to you or that you are watching it happen

To treat a panic attack at home follow the tips below:

  • Relax your shoulders
  • Progressively tense and relax all large muscle groups such as your legs
  • Slow down your breathing
  • Tell yourself that you are not "going crazy"

There are six classifications of anxiety medications. They are: (1) Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), (2) Benzodiazepines, (3) Tricylic Antidepressants (TCAs), (4) Beta-blockers, (5) Azapirones, (6) Monoamine Oxidasw Iinhibitors (MAO Inhibitors).

Dr. Neal-Barrnett says that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are the newest class of drugs that treat anxiety. They reduce anxiety by up to 75-85 percent. They should also be taken 3-6 weeks before an attack. SSRIs increases the amount of serotonin. Some common side effects for these drugs include: headaches, dizziness, weakness, sleep disturbances, tremors, dry mouth, decreased sex drive, and weight gain. SSRI medications include the following:


  • Fluvoxaminie (Luvox)

  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)

  • Sertraline (Zoloft)

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)

  • Citalopram (Celexa)

Benzodiazepines sedatives and are highly addictive. They effective treat anxiety immediately by up to 70-75 percent. They are:

  • Alprazolam (Xanax)

  • Cloonazepam (Klonopin)

  • Lorazepam (Ativan)

Beta-blockers usually used to treat hypertension, howeveer they also help reduce social anxiety. Some Beta-blockers include:

  • Atenolol (Tenormin)

  • Propranolo (Inderal)

Azaspirones includes only one medication, Buspar. It is for generalized anxiety symptoms. Some side effects include: drowsiness, excitement, headaches, tremors,sweating, nervousness, and light-headedness. In some incidences Buspar has caused strokes, heart attacks, and heart failure.

  • Buspirone (Buspar)

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAO Inhibitors) are prescribed when none of the above drugs seem effective. However, the drawback is that patients cannot eat or drink some foods and beverages that contain the ingredient tyramine. MAO Inhibitors include two drugs:

  • Phenelzine (Nardil)

  • Tranylcypromine sulfate (Parnate)

In my experience with anxiety and panic attacks I had social phobia, and I would stray away from social settings and people. Whenever I experienced an attack I got sweaty palms, shortness of breath, hot and cold flashes, and a rapid heart rate. To this day I still do not know what triggered my panic attacks, however it may have been a horrific car accident that I was involved in. To treat my anxiety and panic attacks I was prescribed Ativan, which worked immediately to calm my nerves.

Have you ever experienced anxiety or a panic attack? If so, how did you cope with the symptoms?

Sources:



Monday, September 15, 2008

A Relapse Prevention Plan

I read the chapter "Developing a Relapse Prevention Plan" by Kim T. Mueser, PhD, and Susan Gingerich, MSW, in their book The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia I found some interesting information on how to prevent a relapse.

First, the early warning signs of a relapse vary, and sometimes some relapses do not have any warnings. However here are some common early warning signs to watch out for:
  • Social Withdraw
  • Suspicious of Others

  • Irritability
  • Depression

  • Appetite Changes

  • Sleeping Too Much or Too Little

  • Change in Routine or Unusual Behavior

  • Concentration Problems

  • Feeling Anxious or Nervous

Social withdraw could be an indication that psychotic symptoms are returning, and the individual feels that people are either against them or they are hearing voices. Feeling irritable could mean feeling annoyed by things that don't usually annoy you, or feeling impatient and on the edge. Some people may feel depressed or worthless and not carry an interest in things that used to preoccupy their time. Depression also includes feeling suicidal. A change in appetite is a warning sign of a relapse. You may eat a lot or not eat much at all. Sleep disturbances is a sign of a relapse. Some people change their sleeping pattern by either sleeping too much or not getting enough sleep. Unusual behavior could be anything like not answering the phone or dressing in all black. Concentration problems could mean having difficulty completing a task or following a conversation. Feeling anxious or nervous is a feeling that usually comes before a relapse.

To prevent a relapse you should (http://www.rethink.org/):

  • Continue to take prescribed anti-psychotic medication
  • Learn how to identify, reduce, and cope with stressful situations
  • Avoid using street drugs
  • Maintain close relationships with family and friends
  • Develop a lifestyle that maintains your well being
  • Know your early warning signs and put in place a relapse prevention plan

Second, you should schedule a family meeting to come up with a relapse prevention plan. Determine who should participate in the meeting. In the meeting discuss relapses and their signs Find out what triggered your relapse such as a move, new job, and financial stress. Then determine whether you have been taking your medication. Stopping treatment is usually followed by a relapse. If you have discontinued medication, discuss the reasons why and talk to your doctor. Then discuss whether you have abused drugs or alcohol with your family, these substances make the illness worse. Finally, set a date to do a follow up meeting, and review the relapse prevention plan every six months.

Third, reduce your level of stress. People with schizophrenia can be affected by arguments, criticism, and sudden increased responsibilities. Have you started a new job or had a problem with a relationship, if so these could trigger stress. Come up with some ways to alleviate stress. For example, working less hours at work, participating in more leisure activities, and communicating concerns with a friend or treatment team member.

Lastly, talk to your doctor about possibly increasing your dose of medication or changing your medication to prevent a relapse. Make a list of treatment providers to contact if early warning signs persist for more than a few days (list their name and phone number):

  1. Psychiatrist:
  2. Nurse:
  3. Case Manager:
  4. Social Worker:
  5. Therapist or Counselor:
  6. Other:

Was this relapse prevention plan helpful to you?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Independent Living For People Living With Schizophrenia

What is independent living? Independent living is a home for people that need a little extra help caring for themselves. It is a steping stone for people to mature into their own independent living arrangement. The home has a house manager that lives there and provides supervised distribution of medication and prepared meals. There is usually a curfew to make sure that people are safe, and visiting hours. It is great for a lot of people including those with a mental illness, people who are handicap, and the elderly. I would recommend independent living for those who need help taking their medication, and as a temporary living arrangement until that person is stable and responsible to take their own medication.

Here are some reasons why independent living should be a viable option compared to living at home with a parent or sibling:

  • Feeling more independent or self-reliant
  • Less stress on family
  • Less disagreements with parents and siblings
  • More freedom to do what you want to do


I have lived in an independent living establishment. I lived there for six months. I liked it for a little while but I wanted more freedom. I liked the prepared meals because I do not cook. I did not like having a curfew and I wanted my friends to be able to stay longer than the usual visiting hours which were something like 2-7pm. I also didn't like sharing a room with two other girls, I wanted my my own room and bathroom. Lastly, I did not like having a suicidal roommate, fortunately the house manager called the police so that my roommate was forced to go to the hospital.

My Experience With Discrimination

A few months ago I was looking for a room to rent. While talking to the owner about rent money, she asked me where my income came from, and I told her that I get social security. She went on to ask me what my disability was, so I told her that I have schizophrenia. Then she suggested that I may have a difficult time living there because of stress, and my potential roommate talks a lot, and I may not be able to concentrate on my studies for school.

What does she know about schizophrenia to make such a rationalization?! Maybe if she knew I was on medication and did not have any symptoms she would rent the room to me. Fortunately her room wasn't my top choice.

Therefore I did not tell future owners that I had schizophrenia, because I did not know how much they knew about the illness. Instead, I simply told them that I was a student and that my parents would pay my rent.

What do you think about this situation? If you were renting a room out, would you allow a person with schizophrenia to have the room, why or why not?

In brief, to learn more about the symptoms of schizophrenia read the post titled "Types of Symptoms" (below).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

MentalMeds News And My Story

MentalMeds News (www.mentalmeds.org) wants me to contribute an article on my experience with schizophrenia (also read the post "My Nervous Breakdown," below). I am excited about the opportunity, because I will get a chance to dismantle the stigma attached to schizophrenia by educating people about the illness. Wish me luck as I aspire to write a profound piece about my story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Moment of Silence for 9/11 Anniversary

On September 11, 2001 four commercial air planes were hijacked, and intentionally crashed into the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and a rural area in Pennsylvania. Members of al-Qaede are responsible for the terrorists attacks. Excluding the 19 hijackers, 2,974 people died as a result of the attacks.

Now we will have a moment of silence for the victims of the 9/11 attacks.

What Is A Strong Person To You?

This proverb was written anonymously and can be found in the book The Language of Courage and Inner Strength.

People are like tea bags.
You fiind out how strong they are
when you put them in hot water.

Do you think that having an illness can make people stronger?

Yes, I think that people living with AIDS, cancer, schizophrenia, and other illnesses are strong people because the disease trys to suck the life out of them, but they won't let it. Fortunately with treatment they can overcome.

This proverb was written by Maya Angelou, and is from the book Words of Hope and Courage.

I can be changed
by what happens
to me.
I refuse to be reduced
by
it.

Again, do you think that having an illness can make people stronger? What is a strong person to you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

NAMI Survey

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is administrating a survey about healthcare for people with a serious mental illness (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression). The survey only takes 10 to 15 minutes and must be completed by September 30, 2008. The survey is also written in Spanish. To take the survey visit NAMI at

http://www.nami.org

Please support NAMI's efforts to promote the survey by sharing this information with family, friends, and coworkers.

Do you feel that public healthcare for people with a mental illness is sufficient? What did you think about the survey?

Monday, September 8, 2008

My Nervous Breakdown

A little over a year ago my psychotic episode led me to steal a military truck. I took the truck in hopes of escaping the "demons". I thought everybody was after me. By committing this crime health professionals were able to diagnose me with schizophrenia. This crime landed my five months in a jail and in a hospital.

At first I thought I was in hell, then I thought being in jail was a hoax. I told my mother not put any money towards my bail. My family was very supportive. They visited me, wrote emails, and collected bail money from the family. However, my sickness would not allow them to get too close. I denied visits, mail, and would not call anyone. In my mind I felt blocked to see my family. Whenever I got mail I would throw it away. My illness had taken over. Therefore they did not immediately bail me out when they had the money because they wanted me to get better first. I was not the same person. I did not do the things that I enjoyed such as going to Bible study and being around family.

Eventually, I became catatonic, I would not move, I would stay in the same position for hours. I thought I was staying still to please God, like fasting or something. While I was catatonic I did not eat or shower. As a result, I was sent to the emergency room three times in order for them to put IVs in me to keep me alive.

With treatment the negative symptoms disappeared and I returned to my old self, but I would have to deal with court issues, social phobia and anxiety due to the shock of being in jail. I was afraid of people. I could not stand being in a group like setting, and I would isolate myself. They gave me medicine to calm down, and then I was able to be around people.

In spite of my illness my family never left me behind. They continued to visit me and find more information about my illness. I am thankful for my family, staff at the jail and hospital. Fortunately, the judge knew I was sick and charged me with a misdemeanor.

Have you ever had a nervous breakdown or have experienced psychosis?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Are People Living With Schizophrenia More Likely to Commit Suicide?

A person on a chat group said he read an article that said people living with schizophrenia are more likely to commit suicide within five years of their diagnosis.

I cannot find the article, however, I did find a book called 50 Signs of Mental Illness by James Whitney Hicks, M.D., that said, "Approximately one out of every ten patients with schizophrenia commit suicide, usually during the first ten years of illness". Hicks gives some reasons why people with schizophrenia commit suicide: 'the person is experiencing psychosis and believe that the world is against them, or they are confused by their symptoms'. Another explanation is that 'they are disturbed by their diagnosis'. There is hope, Hicks recommends a drug called clozapine to reduce the risk of suicide. In general, people with schizophrenia should take medication reduce to the risk of suicide.

Here are some tips if you think someone is suicidal (National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)):
  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Encourage the person to get immediate help or call 911
  • Make sure that the individual does not have access to firearms, medication, or other potential tools for suicide

Or you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for guidance and support.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Welcome Silence My Triumph Over Schizophrenia by Carol S. North, M.D.- A Great Read

Welcome Silence is a phenonmenal reading about an incredible woman. The author, Carol North, gives a fascinating description of what it is like to live with schizophrenia. She is incredible because in spite of her disease she manages to get through college and medical school.

I like the book because I can relate to the author. For example, North stresses that people can read her mind, I , too, have experienced this and wouldn't talk to people, because I felt that it wasn't necessary. Like North, I was catatonic and would stay in the same position for hours. After I got out of the catatonic stage doctors worried that I would go back into a catatonic state if they changed my medication as I had insisted with abilify. However, I was able to change my medication as I requested to abilify.

This book is an inspiration that I can complete college and live a productive life despite my illness. In addition, I would like to write a book about my experience. I strongly recommend Welcome Silence to people who want to learn more about the illness, and people living with schizophrenia. Therefore, check out Welcome Silence My Triumph Over Schizophrenia.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Do I Have Schizophrenia?

A woman on another blog asked the question: "Do I have schizophrenia?" She admits to drinking a lot and having confused thoughts and anxiety that someone will break into her house. While drinking she often says bizzare things and lies to family and friends. I replied:

I am not a doctor, but if I were you I would contact a psychiatrist for further investigation. The book, The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia is a very helpful text that I frequently refer back to for information, and is where I gathered the information I am about to share with you.

Schizophrenia and mood disorders, such as bipolar disorder and depression, are commonly mistaken. You can find a psychiatrist through your local chapter of Nation Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the yellow pages, or your family doctor.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia depends on a number of factors including the age of the onset, how long you have been experiencing symptoms, and your level of functioning.

Some symptoms include but are not limited to the following:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions- paranoid, grandoise, reference, control
  • Decreased facial and vocal expressiveness
  • Alogia
  • Lack of motivation or energy
  • Anhedonia
  • Difficulty learning and concentrating
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Catatonia

When I was diagnosed with schizophrenia I was experiencing hallucinations and delusions. I heard voices and was the victim of extreme paranoia. At first the doctors were hestitant to label me a schizophrenic because I had only experienced symptoms for what seemed like a few short months, but later I would discover I encountered symptoms for a few short years. I think my symptoms started in high school, because that is when I thought I could see angels; this was a grandoise symptom of delusions.

When the psychiatrist interviewed me they asked me questions such as:

  • Do you sometimes have jumbled or confused thoughts
  • Is it hard for you to pay attention for long periods of time
  • Is it hard to have a conversaton
  • Do certain colors bother you-do they seem too bright or intense
  • Do you hear voices that nobody else can hear
  • Does your food or drink taste like it has been poisoned
  • Do you catch glimpses of someone following you
  • Do you have special powers or knowledge
  • Do you isolate yourself from others
  • Have people told you that you don't show emotion in your face or voice

The interview lasted about an hour. I was interviewed several times by different health professionals. Family members were also interviewed.

Have you ever wondered if you or loved one has a mental illness?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Types of Symptoms

In group today we discussed the symptoms of schizophrenia. There are three types of symptoms:
  1. Positive Symptoms
  2. Negative Symptoms
  3. Cognitive Symptoms

Positive symptoms include: hallucinations and delusions. I experienced a lot of positive symptoms like hearing voices, seeing things, and paranoia. The voices told me that I was a dishonor to my family and that I wouldn't succeed if I were to move out on my own. An example of a positive symptom that I encountered was thoughts of the neighbor spying on me, and giving information to my family. However, I foolishly confronted the neighbor and discovered that my accusations were false. On another occassion I thought that my roommate was going into my room and going through my belongings. I believed this to the extent of putting a lock on my door to put an end to the worrying. One day while walking home I thought I saw a strange man following me, and meant to kidnap me. I rushed into a nearby grocery store and waited until the man disappeared. As I exited the store I saw the same man and then zoomed into a McDonalds restaurant. I told a bus driver in the restaurant that I was being followed and asked if he would drive me home. He was on his break. He directed me to a nearby bus stop. I walked to the bus stop and caught the bus home.

Negative symptoms include: lack of motivation, not speaking to other people, and not taking care of personal hygiene. While in jail I did not talk to anyone, and if I did it was one word. The nurses placed special people in my room to try to get me to confide in them, however it did not work. Another experience with negative symptoms was not showering. I thought that the soap had bad chemicals in it and would irritate or burn my skin.

Finally, cognitive symptoms refer to difficulties learning and concentrating. In college I had a problem with doing my homework. I could not concentrate on readings and doing assignments took forever to complete. To accomplish a task I would take breaks and naps, and then return to my exercises. In jail I experienced jumbled thoughts or no thoughts at all. It was strange. My whole experience was strange wasn't it?

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Overcoming Schizophrenia

Hello, I am a young African American female who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. Recently, I discovered that I had schizophrenia through an unfortuante experience that landed me five months in jail and in the hospital.

Suffering from schizophrenia during my college years led me to drop out of school due to the stresses of life. I heard voices but thought they were the people around me or in my cellular phone. I also experienced paranoia relative to delusions. I thought that people were gossiping about me and were against me, or following me. I experienced anxiety with groups of people and often strayed away from social activities. At one point I thought I had the gift of discernment whereas I could decipher "evil" spirits from "good" spirits in people. These delusions deterioated my relationships with professors and peers.

Now I am recovering through medication and therapy. I am taking a medication called abilify. I read books on the illness, keep a journal, and blog, and attend groups. Are there any other persons that can relate to my situation?