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...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Why I Take My Medication Part II

Taking medication is important because when one does not take their medication it could affect not only their own functioning skills but also other people as well emotionally and/or physically. For example, severe psychosis could lead someone to harm themself in the form of suicide, or other people in self defense if the voices tell them, or they think, other people are out to get them. This could lead to lengthy legal manners and hospital stays.

I take my medication for myself and for my family. I do not want to experience psychosis again because I will feel like I have special powers, to read other people's minds, and that they can read my mind too, which is very uncomfortable and scary. And I will feel extemely confused and scared of people around me. While I was psychotic, and I did not know I had developed adult onset schizophrenia, I thought others were out to get me so I took a military truck to escape the demons around me. Luckily nobody was seriously hurt, but it could have been worse.

This was not a light crime by no means, I could have been charged with a felony and face 3 to 4 years in prison. Fortunately my family, friends, and me were able to make the judge understand that this was not my regular behavior and it will not happen again because I am seeking treatment for my illness.

Also, while I was sick in custody I denied visits from family because I thought they were against me or were replacements. In addition to that, I think the voices told me they were not my friends and could not be trusted. This put my family on an emotional roller coaster, especially my mother because she visited me the most. In the end, I received time served and a misdemeanor with restitution for the crime I committed while experiencing psychosis. Prior to this incident I had no criminal record.

Some reasons that people stop taking their medication is that they either forget to take it, the harsh side effects, or they think they are well and do not need it anymore. Some side effects I experienced that made me want to stop taking the medication was restlessness. I could not sleep and I always had to be in motion to overcome restlessness. However, if you talk to your doctor there is medication to fight some of the side effects. Some people think they can fight the symptoms, which is not the case. Schizophrenia is a severe mental illness that affects one's thinking processes.

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts seek professional assistance immediately, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK. If you are considering discontinuing your medication remember those who care about you. Also, remember the bad experiences with psychosis- how it made you feel. If you are experiencing bad side effects talk to your doctor about your options, you may need to try another medication, but be cooperative and optimistic about the outcome. To learn more about schizophrenia or to get support contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Good Doctor Bad Doctor

One of my followers mentioned something to me that disturbed me, it was about their relative's doctor they lacked faith in their recovery, they implied that the relative may never improve; they did not want to get the family's hopes up. I think doctors should have high standards for their practice. I think this is one of the worse things a doctor could say! I wonder why people are in those professions if they don't think their patient has a chance, or have faith in their work?

I just want to make one point clear: it is a myth that someone with schizophrenia cannot recover, they just have not found the right treatment that works for them, yet, but they should keep looking and keep hope alive! A lot of my readers with a mental illness are success stories.

I had a doctor that I don't think really cared about her work. She wasn't there for me when I needed her. I complained to her about the restlessness I was experiencing from the side effects of my medication. I had trouble sleeping at night because I felt like I had to stay in motion, therefore, I moved my legs around a lot in bed at night. Fortunately, there was an alternate doctor on site that gave me more medication to help cope with the side effects of the anti psychotic medication.

The alternate doctor took over my case when I was really sick and catatonic, my other doctor was on vacation or was not available. Also, I requested my main doctor, not the alternate doctor, to change my medication because I did not like the side effects. I believe any person should have a say in their treatment- it's their right! I suggested a medication because I read about it in an article about bipolar disorder, I thought I was bipolar because nobody told me what my illness was, they just forced me to take medication. She did not take into account my request because she said I may slip into a catatonic state again. As a result, I did not share my concerns with this doctor, but I did not have a choice; however, I always requested the alternate doctor whenever the opportunity arose.

I also have experience working with an awesome doctor. Dr. X, he switched my medication to to the one I wanted right when I got into his care (and I did not have a relapse!), because the medication I was on put me at risk for developing diabetes, which is also prevalent in my family. I guess this was carelessness on my other doctor's part!

Dr. X went beyond his duty and arranged a meeting with my mother and treatment team so that she will have a better understanding of my illness. I had to sign a form allowing him to discuss my personal business with my mother, since I was over the age of 18. This meeting was held during the time of the major fires in San Diego and Southern California. My mom had a hard time getting there because all of the roads were blocked, shut down without notice. Dr. X actually stuck with my mom and navigated the trip for her to make sure they met that day. He and my social worker stayed until she arrived and held this very important meeting, with no regard to time or the fact that they were off work. He gave her important information on my illness, the scope on various medications and signs to look for in case of a relapse. He scheduled this meeting in advance and told her to come prepared with questions she might have. My mother, my stepfather and my sister worked together to make sure they created a list that would help with my recovery. Dr. X also told her there was most definitely hope for me because I was young and very active. He said he wanted me to succeed!

I have a lot of respect for Dr. X because he actually listened to my concerns and actually cared, which showed in the way he spoke to his patients. He was the one that gave me the news that I have schizophrenia, he wasn't like the previous doctor I mentioned above that shoved medicine down my throat and expected me to understand my illness without warning. Dr. X made an analogy between schizophrenia and diabetes to explain that treatments will be needed forever, since there is no cure schizophrenia or diabetes, yet.

Finally, there are good doctors and there are bad doctors, that's life, but nobody should have to suffer the burden of the bad doctor. My advice to you if you are facing a challenge such as my follower where your doctor lacks faith in your recovery switch that doctor immediately. And if you can't change doctors find a good support group that you can share your concerns with and get more information on schizophrenia or whatever your mental illness, or medical ailment is.

Schizophrenia or any sort of mental illness or medical ailment for that matter needs to be nurtured. For example, people with diabetes, like my mother, needs to monitor her diabetes and have a good diet, and in some cases take their medication. Likewise, people with schizophrenia need to take their medication in order to control symptoms like people with diabetes need to control their sugar levels.

As I may have mentioned previously and I will keep on mentioning this, recovery demands medication compliance, support, and a positive outlook. There are a lot of places where you can get support, not only from family but also from organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia(Canada), online support groups such as SchizophreniaConnection.com and Schizophrenia Support Network.com.

Have you ever experienced a bad doctor?- How did you handle this and what advice would you give to others in this position?

I want to thank you for taking the time out to read more about this illness and my story. I really appreciate your comments, advice, and questions, and I encourage them so that others can learn too! God Bless you and yours!

Reflections

This post discusses how I feel now living with schizophrenia and how far I have come in recovery. These are my reflections...

Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I never in a million years would have thought I would be handling a mental illness, now that I have it I am coping very well with it. Since my diagnosis, I have been taking things slow. I am optimistic about my recovery or getting to a state where I can get back to the way things used to be such as going to school and working.

I have really progressed with my recovery. At one point I was so sick I did not even know the date or who the president was, I was out of it completely. I am so thankful for antipsychotic medications such as Abilify, the medicine I am taking now. The medication does wonders, it gave me me back! While I was sick I was a different person, stand-offish, isolated, and quiet. Now I do not feel that way anymore, I am more focal and sociable.

I am doing well on meds, taking them regularly, with minor side effects. I am very satisfied with Abilify, it rids me of the symptoms and allows me to think rationally again. I get along well with my psychiatrist and therapist. And, I not only get support from my mother and sister, treatment team, but also online peers which makes me feel good.

Now I am working part-time on an internship. It has been a little over a month now. I am really enjoying it- the people I work with and the cause. I have not told anybody at work that I have schizophrenia, and I don't think I will, it is a tough subject that needs to be understood before speculation.

I get along well with my mother, which is awesome because it was not the case in the beginning stages of my illness. My illness made her and my family the bad guy. Now we get along very well and live together. I love my mother very much and I am glad that she is here for me, she has really helped in my recovery.

Since my diagnosis I have learned a lot about schizophrenia, and I have shared that information with you. I believe this knowledge makes me and you stronger and able to fight the illness.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Schizophrenia and Violence

In general, people with schizophrenia are not violent. In fact, they are more likely to withdraw from people and not want to be bothered.

However, in the case of violence for the person with schizophrenia it would most likely be against themselves in the form of suicide. Suicidal thoughts is a symptom of schizophrenia, the voices may encourage one to harm themself or others in some cases. Ten percent of people with schizophrenia will commit suicide. This is especially true for young males. Also, suicide is prevalent among the first ten years of illness. 50 Signs of Mental Illness states: "Rates of suicide are twenty times higher among drug and alcohol abusers than among nonabusers". If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts they should seek immediate professional assistance. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.

The following factors make a person with schizophrenia prone to violence: 1) past history of violence (prior to illness) just like the general public, 2) drug and alcohol abuse similar to the general population, 3) not taking medication, 4) low socio-economic status, 5) young, and 6) male gender. Also, severe psychotic symptoms increase the risk of violence. The person with schizophrenia may think that others are trying to harm them and respond with violence. In any event, the people most affected by violent acts would most likely be family and friends, and the violent act would occur in the home.

Again, people with schizophrenia are generally not violent unless they have the same characteristics as the stated factors. Suicide is the most common act of violence among people with schizophrenia. Suicide attempts are not practiced by all people with schizophrenia, just a small percentage of them. If you or someone you know is considering suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK.

Resources:

50 Signs of Mental Illness by James Whitney Hicks, M.D.

http://www.schizophrenia.com/family/viol.htm

http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/schizophrenia-and-violence/

http://www.dialogues-cns.org/brochures/07/nn4/DCNS%2007_62.asp

http://schizophrenia.emedtv.com/schizophrenia/schizophrenia-and-violence.html

http://www.mentalhealthcare.org.uk/research/expanded/?id=6

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

HELP Solve the Problem

Before my diagnosis of schizophrenia I did not take medication, in fact, I tried to fight my cold or allergies without medication because I did not want to be addicted or dependent on any medications. This is not a good practice for anyone. Schizophrenia is not like any flu, cold, or allergy, it is an illness of the mind that worsens as time goes by. Schizophrenia is a debilitating illness that corrupts a person's thinking processes. It cannot be conquered by will power alone like other common sicknesses. Through my experience, I have learned that medication is good for you, why not take a pill if you are coughing or sneezing all day? Solve the problem and move on! Medication is a good a thing that we should appreciate when used properly.

Schizophrenia makes a person do bizarre things because they cannot think clearly. For example, before I knew I had schizophrenia I did not eat or shower for a little while, NOT because I did not want to eat or shower, but because I was afraid. I feared that someone poisoned my food, and I thought the soap would burn my skin. These things sound absurd to me now, but back then it was very real and nobody could tell me otherwise.

The illness destructed my thinking so bad that I became catatonic and I did not speak much. It started out as simply worshipping God by staying still and meditating, however, it went to the extreme. I did not acknowledge people when they came into my presence. In fact, I think the voices encouraged me to be still and to not move a limb for hours. Before I went into a catatonic state I said very little to peers and professional health care providers. I isolated myself from people, not going outside or even leaving my room to eat. Also, my anxiety was so high especially around groups of people, I had a low tolerance for group settings, and I steered away from them.

A few times I thought I was being watched everywhere I went, I thought I was on a reality show, involuntarily! I felt like everywhere I went there was a camera watching me- on the street, in the car, etc.- and I could not escape "them". I thought the devil was sending messages through television and radio. One scene on the television read: "How to commit suicide," fortunately I was not suicidal, however, these words broadcast on the television frightened me.

Therefore, I take my medication to help solve the problem. I take my medication in order, to eat my food in peace, to shower without any worries, and to interact with groups of people to do the things I enjoy doing. I talk about these things a lot because this was a very frightening moment in my life as a result of schizophrenia.

To have peace of mind, take your medicine. To get your mind back, take your medication. To live life to the fullest, take your medication.

Schizophrenia is a serious mental illness that needs to be addressed with medication,therapy and support. If you or a loved one has schizophrenia, seek immediate mental health care attention. If you do not know where to seek help, organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada) can help. There is no cure for schizophrenia, yet, however, there is treatment.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Take Things Slow

Prior to my diagnosis of schizophrenia I was very active in school and extracurricular activities. I played a role in cross country, an internship, AWANA church program for youth, and school. Eventually, my illness interrupted my studies and I was forced to drop out of school temporarily due to the stresses of school, finances, and life changes. I worked for a little while until my illness took that opportunity away from me too when I had a nervous breakdown.

When my illness was made known, everybody (i.e. psychiatrist, therapist, mother, treatment team) suggested that I make a change and to take things slow for a little while. Therefore, I did not work for the first year after my diagnosis, and I applied for Supplemental Security Income. In the meantime I participated in a clubhouse for young adults and I was fortunate to return to school for one class.

Making the change was challenging for me, because I am used to juggling so many different activities. After it is said and done, I am glad I took a break. I had the opportunity to learn me all over again.

Now it has almost been two years this summer since my diagnosis. I am getting back into the hang of things. I plan on completing the marketing internship I am currently involved in, and going back to school part-time soon.

If you have recently been diagnosed with schizophrenia I strongly encourage you to take things slow until you feel comfortable doing the things you used to do again. However, I am no doctor so I also want you to talk to your doctor before making any sudden changes such as working again. Taking things slow really worked for me initially after my diagnosis and for my recovery, it may work for you too, give it a try.

Friday, February 20, 2009

No, Please, That's Not Me

Prior to my diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia I did some things that I am not proud of. Now that I look back on things I blame my illness for my poor judgment. I am by no means condoning the behavior I carried out, and will share with you here. I will provide a few instances where my behavior was unlike me and caused an uproar. This post shows how schizophrenia affects other people. This post is for the family members and friends of people with schizophrenia, or showing bizarre behaviors.

First, I asked my mother permission to give my friend a statue that was in my mother's house. My mother agreed to give my friend the statue, however, I took her permission a step further to get rid of what she had at my discretion. At the time I did not live with my mother who was away on a business trip. My mother buys and sells things so she had a lot of collectibles, antiques, and other interesting stuff. While my friend and me were in my mother's house my friend saw a lot of stuff that she liked. I made the assumption that my mother would not be returning to her home, being that she had been away for several weeks, and I took it upon myself to get rid of her belongings. I gave away all of her belongings to friends. I gave away her antiques, computer, furniture, and more. Accordingly, this put a huge strain on my relationship with my mother, she thought I did it intentionally to hurt her, but in reality this poor decision was a part of my undiagnosed illness.

Second, I accused my aunt of many things- stealing my cell phone, later tapping my phone, and drugging me. I usually took my cell phone everywhere I went, while I was in the shower one afternoon I felt someone's presence in the bathroom with me. I thought I was psychic. After my shower, I discovered my cell phone was missing from the bathroom. I just knew my aunt took my cell phone. I went into the bedroom where my aunt was and accused her of stealing my cell phone. I began shouting at her that she knew where it was and demanding her to give it back... Later I discovered the cell phone was under my bed and never was in the bathroom with me, therefore, my aunt never took my cell phone like she pleaded with me earlier.

I got rid of my cell phone thinking it was tapped and had a tracking device in it. I accused my aunt of tapping my phone and tracking my whereabouts. I told this story to my other aunt who told me that the aunt I lived with wouldn't tap my phone. I did not believe her.

Third, to escape the demons that were following me I took a military truck to get away. The truck was sitting with the car keys in them with the driver door wide open, I took this as a blessing from God and a sign to get away from everybody. Later, I accused my aunt of drugging me which caused me to act bizarre and to take the truck. This incident alone caused a lot of legal matters, that I do not want to recall, it put me in jail for over four months and also upset my family.

These incidents show my poor judgment as a result of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia alters your judgment and ruins your character.

Again, these incidents occurred before I was diagnosed with schizophrenia, I would have never done these things had I been on medication. The point I am trying to make is that the person with schizophrenia does not do things intentionally to harm someone else, they are sick and are not aware of the consequences of their actions.

If you have a family member that shows bizarre behavoir, or has schizophrenia, do not get upset with them they need your help. Therefore, before overlooking their bizarre behavior investigate the situation and seek support. Remember, they are not thinking clearly to make good decisions. Also, do not take what they do personally, schizophrenia generally affects those closest to the individual such as people they live with, and close family and friends.

I am not the same person as I was before. In fact, these incidents embarrasses me, and I am very sorry they ever happened. Now, I make better decisions because I can think clearly as a result of the wonders of newer medication.

To learn more about schizophrenia and to get support, visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness. For those of you in Canada, visit Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia for support and resources.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Other Side of the Storm (Count Your Blessings)

While I was displaying different symptoms of adult onset schizophrenia I did not have any idea I had a mental illness. Gradually, I became paranoid, not speaking much or thinking clearly, catatonic, and hallucinating, etc. While I was sick I thought the world was focused on me and I thought I was being watched and critiqued about everything. Also, I thought everybody was against me and were demons.

I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia less than a couple of years ago. Now that I am aware of my illness I can try to overcome it through various treatments and support.

I know I am blessed because I have the ability to live again! I can hold a conversation again, walk down the street without fear of people watching me and/or following me, and eat my food knowing that nobody is trying to poison me. I can reprioritize my activities to do the things I want to do like fulfill my obligations to an internship, finish college, and do the things I enjoy doing.

God has opened my mind up to what life can be like with and without treatment. I am blessed to have insight into my illness, and to have the resources to treat it. I am thankful for advancements in medication for mental illness. Medication performs miracles, it makes a difference like night and day.

I am thankful for the support I am getting. Online support reassures me that I am not alone in this. I can connect with a lot of different people, and also help them by sharing my experience. My immediate family shows continuous support in various ways that makes me feel appreciated.

Finally, I am blessed to be a child of God. To know that He loves me and gave me another chance to enjoy life. My symptoms are under control with the help of medication and I no longer see or sense demons. He gave me a wonderful family, treatment team, and online support family to share my experience with. It could have been worse, but I will look at the whole experience as a blessing from God...

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Building Friendships

Since I moved back to Atlanta (in August) I have not developed many friendships. Friendships are important for additional support. I found someone I could relate to in my support group at the local mental health clinic, however, she doesn't attend groups much and I didn't get her phone number. I don't think my lack of friendships is a result of my illness, I think it is because I have not been getting out much. However, I feel like I get a lot of support online. Now I am ready for some more friends.

To find some friends I could join a church, gym, clubhouse, or get involved in activities at the college I plan to attend next semester. I used to be a member of a clubhouse in California, where I am from, I had a lot friends and associates there. However, the clubhouse my sister found for me here in Atlanta is expensive, maybe I should look into this again and try to find a free county mental health program.

Also, there is a scrabble club that meets every Saturday, I could try attending more sessions and meet people there. In addition, I have not found anyone at work I could connect with, maybe it's too soon since I have only been there for a month.

Now I spend a lot of my time with family, watching my 19 month old niece, and talking to my mother, sister, and stepfather a lot. We have dinner together every couple of weeks and talk everyday, which I enjoy.

Can anyone relate to me?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Paranoid Schizophrenia

Paranoid schizophrenia is a subtype of schizophrenia. It consists of paranoid characteristics such as persecutory delusions, thoughts that others are following you, the belief that others are trying to poison you or harm you. I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

At the time, I believed my family was against me. I thought my family had contacted friends and told them bad things about me. I believed a relative of mine poisoned me or drugged me which led me to commit a crime. In reality, I committed the crime of taking a military truck as a reaction to my psychosis. In addition to that, I thought this same relative tapped my cell phone and had a device in my phone that monitored my whereabouts.

I even thought peers and professors were conspiring against me. Once, I told a friend: "I could feel people gossiping about me." She looked at me like I was crazy and told me nobody was gossiping about me.

At one point, I thought the neighbors were spying on me and giving reports back to my family. What they would report, I have no idea, I had a life, but it wasn't that interesting being a college student. In fact, I confronted the neighbor and told them not to spy on me, now this incident embarrassed me.

While walking to the store one day I thought I saw a shadow pass me, it was an evil spirit I thought. (I thought I was a prophet and could decipher good spirits from evil spirits in people). I saw a man following me and I got scared. I went into a nearby grocery store and waited till he left. When I left the store I went directly into a nearby restaurant, because I saw the strange man again. I was so scared I asked a complete stranger to give me a ride home, the man I asked was a bus driver. He referred me to a nearby bus stop that runs frequently. Just recently, I realized this was a hallucination.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Finding the Strength Within

In general, life is not an easy journey, and having schizophrenia or any sort of mental illness does not make it any better. However, everyone must work with what they have and make the best of it by finding the strength within.

To cope with my illness I found peace in praising and meditating on the Lord, and also talking to my family. I would read the Bible, recite my favorite scriptures, and sing hymns and pray. I would call my mother and sister daily and tell them everything; what I ate, whether my relationships with friends was going well, and the status of my treatment. Instead, of being discouraged I told myself I would push on and not let my illness get the best of me, for me there was no other option, but to live.

Building strong relationships with health professionals is important. To this day, I still maintain a relationship with my case manager, Tamika, from California, and my current therapist, Ms. D. I trust them because I believe they have my best interest at heart. I feel comfortable sharing my concerns with them... For example, I told Ms. D. I had a change in appetite and asked her if I should be concerned, knowing that this could be an early warning sign of a relapse. She listened to me and gave me a reasonable explanation, it was most likely a reaction to the stress of moving and adjusting to a new environment.

After my diagnosis, I embraced friends at the clubhouse and sought online support groups which I found in SchizophreniaConnection.com and Schizophrenia Support Network.com. Now I know I am not alone, and I have friends on the Web. I have resources for questions I may have about my illness and support to relate to others.

If you need additional support, I encourage you to check out these online support groups, they are not only for the person with schizophrenia, but also for friends and relatives. If you have a mental illness or a friend or relative of yours does, do not give up hope for recovery and peace of mind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tough Decisions

This is for the family members of people with schizophrenia.

Sometimes people are faced with hard decisions such as allowing their loved one to go into the hospital. Remember the benefits when such choices as these are made. A mother of a boy with schizophrenia is challenged by the choice to let her son live in a medical facility, temporarily. I know of her situation through an online support group. I said she should allow it because the boy will get the best mental health support that's needed for that moment.

A lot of attention is required for a person's wellness. And professionals have learned techniques to help individuals with mental illness overcome it. Trust professionals and know that your loved one is getting the help they need in order to get well again and to return to you. Sometimes a person may require undivided attention until they figure everything out. Think about it, it may be difficult for you to provide this need, especially if you do not know much about it. It can kind of be considered unfair to that person in need. You, too, can use this time to educate yourself and prepare yourself.

The hospital is not a bad place for the person with schizophrenia. It is a place to regroup and to learn how to cope with one's illness. In addition to mental health education, family members are encouraged to consistently visit their loved one, to be a part of it. I must emphasize that continued family involvement is a major part of recovery, not a time off.

Here are some of the benefits of letting a person with schizophrenia go into the hospital:

1) Medication Compliance
2) Observation and Proper Diagnosis
3) Mental Health Education

In my situation, my family did not have a choice of letting me go to the hospital, it was mandated by the judge for me to go to the State Hospital. My mother begrudgely faced the reality for the need for me to be in the hospital and encouraged the courts to mandate it because it was much needed and would help me. These decisions are not easy, very emotional, and most often necessary when presented with this choice.

At the hospital medication compliance is enforced, which is a good thing because the medication works miracles on a person's behavior and thinking processes. Professionals can observe individuals with mental illness and make proper diagnosis, and find the right medication for that person. Also, there are educational groups to learn more about the illness and coping skills.

When I was in the hospital we had daily workshops that helped me understand what was happening to me. Classes consisted of Medication Education, Balancing, and Managing Stress. I was also able to take extracurricular classes such as yoga.

If you have a tough decision to make like letting someone go into the hospital, make that choice because the person will get the professional help they so need. You are not alone, there are other families out there going through the same thing. There may be support groups for families at the hospital. My mother was able to meet other family members while I was in the hospital and she learned a lot from people that had been working with their loved ones longer than she had.

Also, check out NAMI groups. For people in Canada, they could contact Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia for resources and support.

Please don't think you are deserting them, you can still support the individual by learning about their illness and visiting them. Be prepared for the long haul and continued support because there is not a cure for schizophrenia, yet.

There is a lot more to say about this subject, and other subjects I have blogged about. I welcome questions and suggestions in order to help other people so we can all work together.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Path that God Chose for Me

I am not upset that I have schizophrenia, this is the life God chose for me. The other day I was telling my mother I am glad I took a break from school, but I wish I had taken it sooner so that I could have recognized my illness sooner. She reminded me that everything happens for a reason, and that had I took a break sooner I would not have been able to know my full potential in college and in life. I went to college and got really involved in it through sports, internships, and mentoring peers. I was involved in so many things, school, church, home, friends, family, you name it! She was right, I am glad I took the path I took.

I did not always have schizophrenia, but now that I have it I will work hard to overcome it. I try not to use the word schizophrenic because that identifies the person by their illness and that isn't fair. I am Ashley and I have schizophrenia. I will not let it limit my potential or define who I am. I can and will overcome these symptoms with medication, therapy, support, and coping mechanisms.

My mother also reminded me that I used what I learned from my experiences to cope with the side effects of my medication. I was stiff and restless. To control this I exercised, paced, and read the Bible to relax. I also sang hymns and prayed to God.

If you have a mental illness, don't be upset that you have the illness, everybody has imperfections and remember that God does not put more on you than what you can bare.

Schizophrenia: Rehabilitation

After my illness progressed I had slow motor skills and I could not spell words like I used to. My mother informed me of these changes just recently, I did not realize how slow I was or that I lost my ability to spell at the time this was happening.

I was very stiff, like a robot, because of the side effects of medication. However, doctors gave me Cogintin to cope with the stiffness. In addition to medication to overcome the stiffness, I did yoga and practiced kick boxing, because other people told me I was stiff too. I learned kick boxing in high school, and remembered some of the routines. I remember my mother visiting me in the hospital and telling me I was stiff. She helped me by exercising with me and teaching me how to walk again. She would tell me to move my arms more and put some pep into my walk.

We also played scrabble and card games to enhance my memory and motor skills. That's when my mother realized I lost a little of my memory of how to spell. She knew I could spell better because I used to write a lot of term papers for college, but she wouldn't correct me because it was just for fun and she knew I would gradually get better. I would spell words incorrectly by using the wrong phrase, for example, instead of spelling "there" I spelled "they're".

Exercising, playing scrabble, and card games really helped me a lot, and maybe it can help other people who are trying to get back to a state of where they were. To this day I still play scrabble, but online mostly, with other people around the world. I could spell words better than when I was first diagnosed with adult onset schizophrenia, and I am learning new words. It is good that I have someone I could trust to tell me the truth and to support me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Schizophrenia: Disorganized Thinking

A part of cognitive symptoms include disorganized thinking or specifically for me loose associations and poor concentration. I would make two different things connect that had nothing to do with each other. I was also delusional or believed things that was not true with no valid evidence to prove anything. Also, it was hard for me to focus and to complete homework and work assignments. (Side note: while I was experiencing these symptoms I did not know I had developed adult onset schizophrenia).

For example, a taxi cab driver told me to 'stay out of trouble,' this statement led me to believe that he was following me or watching me. This was also another type of delusion. Another example, is while I was working for for a relative we received a piece of mail from New Jersey. (Side note: New Jersey is also where my ex-boyfriend visited a lot). I assumed my mother went to New Jersey and drove my ex-boyfriend away from me. I accused my mother of taking away my ex-boyfriend and my father. My parents had been divorced since I was a baby.

At work and school it would take me hours to complete simple assignments that I could have easily fulfilled prior to the onset of schizophrenia. I tried to work around doing homework by taking naps, working on other projects, or creating study groups. At work I got embarrassed that it took me a whole day to complete the task of writing a couple of small paragraphs.

Disorganized thinking is also a subtype of schizophrenia. It is also categorized by racing thoughts, poor speech, making up words, delusions, and a hard time completing basic tasks such as showering. I also struggled with the bathing part, because I thought the soap would burn my skin.

Resources:

50 Signs of Mental Illness by James Whitney Hicks, M.D.

Disorganized Schizophrenia-
http://www.ohiohealth.com/bodymayo.cfm?id=6&action=detail&ref=3212

Sunday, February 8, 2009

WHO AM I...A New Introduction

I am a daughter, a sister, an auntie; and a student.


"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, I ordained you a prophet to the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). This is my favorite scripture, because God knows everyone and everything before it happens.

In the past, I had a little setback, however, I do not let it define me. I am persistent, passionate, and excited about my work. I enjoy going to the movies, running, and painting pottery. I am more expressive, open-minded, and my moods are more stable. I welcome constructive criticism and I am very optimistic. I enjoy being around family and people in general, and I excel at challenges. I like the thrill of accomplishing my new dreams and goals.

I am explaining who I am because there are a lot of stereotypes about people with schizophrenia...They are lazy, they are not motivated, and they do not show emotion. However, I show a lot of emotion- I laugh, I cry, and get I upset at the appropriate times. They are violent, have split personality, and are manipulative. I am not an aggressive individual and never have been, I am not moody, and I am straightforward; not manipulative at all. I am just like everyone else, I make mistakes and have goals. In fact, I have a lot of goals, I plan on graduating from college, and working a full time job in public relations and marketing after school.

Additional stereotypes have the inaccurate belief that there is no hope for recovery, and that people with schizophrenia will always be in the hospital, this not true. I am living proof that recovery is possible. Now I am in the recovery stage; I take medication, get involved in group therapy, and work on a marketing internship.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Creed

Now that I am aware of my mental illness and is recovering from schizophrenia I can help myself and others by promising myself to...

1) Take my medication regularly. I know that without medication I have a high chance of a relapse, recurring symptoms, and going back to the hospital.

2) Educate myself on this illness. I agree that "knowledge is power," and with it I can accomplish a lot. Researching information on schizophrenia will keep me aware of symptoms and news.

3) Tell my doctor if I have recurring symptoms. My doctor is there to assist and to provide solutions for me.

4) Ask for help when I need it. Going to the hospital is not punishment, it is to get well again. So if I feel that it is needed, I will ask for help.

5) Educate my immediate family on the illness. I will share my knowledge with the illness with family to further encourage support.

6) Support others. I will share my experience and offer advice to others with schizophrenia or relatives of those with schizophrenia.

7) Listen to allies. Listen to someone that I can trust, they may see changes in me that I cannot see, and be concerned that I may show recurring symptoms. I will listen to their concerns and seek professional assistance.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Schizophrenia is not Caused by BAD Parenting!!

The situation that I am about to discuss with you is very personal and a sensitive topic, however, similar things most likely occur in other people's families as well.

After I had my psychotic break, relatives believed my mother was to blame for my illness. They believed I wasn't raised right and my mother's parenting skills were to blame. Although this was a harsh attitude towards my mother, it was another form of denial. Family made accusations, although I was not even raised in the same state as the rest of my family. Once a person has a mental illness the whos, whats, wheres and whys really do not matter. The only thing that should matter is getting that person back on the right track and moving forward toward recovery.

During my childhood, I always felt loved by my mother. She would call me her "princess," "little queen," "pumpkin pie," or "ratcoon." I remember her telling me "I love you," and exchanging hugs before bedtime. She always had high standards for my sister and me. My mother was very strict, we had a specific routine to follow, do our chores, do our homework, and then play.

Before my illness interrupted my life I was involved in a lot of activities. My mother still does not understand how I managed to juggle so many activities while I was in school, to this day. I was involved with my college cross country team, part-time job, church, and school. I was very active, an over achiever having made the Dean's List my freshmen year of college. My family never remotely imagined me having an illness such as schizophrenia.

Accordingly, my family's anger turned towards my mother. She was an easy target because she did not live her life the way other relatives wanted her to. She divorced my father when I was a baby and did not remarry. Neither of my relatives lived a perfect life either, but it was very easy for them to point a finger. This incident caused a lot of friction within my family, that still hasn't been resolved.

The truth is, nobody is to blame for mental illness. My great grandmother having a mental illness, is evidence that the illness started its course before my mother was even born. If you are a victim of being called a bad parent because your child has a mental illness, it is not true, and you are not alone.

There is no known cause for schizophrenia but it does involve a combination of genetics and environmental factors.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Recovery Question

Anonymous Drifter from Disjointed Thoughts asked: "I'd like to know why some of those with schizophrenia are so functional despite their illness while others are totally debilitated."

Answer: There are several factors that determine a person's recovery. How one responds to treatment, coping skills, whether negative symptoms are treated, consistent medication compliance, time of treatment, personal history, insight, substance abuse, and support. The statistics mentioned come from a study of 23 cases of schizophrenia patients who have successfully returned to school or work, the study was performed by UCLA.

Everybody is different, Sally may respond to X treatment, but Bob may not. One's success with treatment requires trial and error until the proper medication is found. For example, Carol North tried several treatments for her schizophrenia until finally finding a solution to rid herself of the voices.

How one reacts to stressors is indicative of how they may respond to recovery. A person should limit or reduce responsibilities and stresses for at least six months. After I was diagnosed with schizophrenia I did not go back to work, however, I returned to school after three months, but I only took one class. After one semester I took a break. I just recently started an internship where I work three days out of the week and no more than 25 hours a week. I take everything I do very slow.

Negative symptoms are difficult to treat, once you overcome this you have a pretty good chance at recovery. Negative symptoms include: lack of facial or vocal expression, alogia or poverty of speech, lack of motivation, and decreased pleasure or enjoyment.

Consistent medication compliance helps bring about remission, however, this is not the only element to achieve recovery. Therapy and support play a role as you may discover as you read further. Doctors told my mother I had a better chance of recovery because I was young, very active, and became aware of the illness early on. The sooner somebody treats their illness the better the outcome.

Personal history includes: IQ, education level, work experience, age of onset, intensity of symptoms, and social skills. "A total of 70 percent [of patients]graduated from college before becoming ill, and an additional 13 percent completed two years of college. Three of the remaining four subjects worked full time before their illness began" (http://www.schizophrenia.com/sznews/archives/001994.html).

One study showed the older the person is the better their chances of recovery. This is true because one has been subjected to various life situations where they are able to develop very good social and coping skills in response to stress.

Accordingly, insight into one's illness plays a major role, because they are more likely to try to get treatment for their illness if they accept they have schizophrenia opposed to not sticking to medication regimen and therapy.

Substance abuse is very common among people with schizophrenia for various reasons including self medication to rid oneself of symptoms. However, when one stops abusing alcohol and drugs they have a better chance of recovery. To answer any questions in advance, I was not a victim of substance abuse.

"Though three-quarters of the study participants reported substance abuse prior to treatment, just 17.4 percent reported abuse after the onset of schizophrenia. None reported illicit drug use in the past year, and just two reported occasional alcohol consumption" ( http://www.schizophrenia.com/sznews/archives/001994.html). It is important to not take drugs while on medication, because symptoms can worsen.

In general, having support increases a person's chances of recovery. Good relationships with one's treatment team (i.e. psychiatrist, therapist, social worker, counselor, case manager, etc.) improves stability. Also, family support plays a role too.

Resources:

Christina Bruni, an expert on schizophrenia, from SchizophreniaConnection.com at www.healthcentral.com

The Complete Family Guide to Schizophrenia by Kim T. Mueser, PhD and Susan Gingerich, MSW

10 Keys to Recovery-
http://www.schizophrenia.com/sznews/archives/001994.html

Schizophrenia & Psychosis- Ways to Speed Recovery and Recurrence-
http://www.schizophrenia.com/sznews/archives/004399.html

Prognosis and Recovery Factors of Schizophrenia-
http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=8806&cn=7

Monday, February 2, 2009

Identical Twins and Schizophrenia

Did you know that both identical twins usually do not develop schizophrenia. Schizophrenia, or any other mental illness, is not developed solely by genes alone, other factors contribute to its development. Identical twins prove this theory, one could develop schizophrenia and the other does not develop a mental illness, this is said to be discordant. Discordant illness in twins is more common than concordant, or both twins having a mental illness.

However, it is clear that bad parenting or a dysfunctional family is not one of the factors to develop schizophrenia. "Schizophrenia is caused by a genetic vulnerability coupled with environmental and psychosocial stressors, the so-called diathesis-stress model(http://www.schizophrenia.com/research/surg.general.2002.htm)". Complications prior to birth, or after birth, contribute to the likelihood of getting schizophrenia. Also, the underclass is more prone to developing schizophrenia than the upperclass, because the underclass is associated with more stresses.

"The twin studies showed that if one identical twin has schizophrenia, then there is a 30-50% chance that the other twin will have it as well. If a fraternal twin has schizophrenia, then there is a 15% chance that the other twin will have it as well. (This is the same percentage as any brother and sister)(http://www.thetech.org/genetics/ask.php?id=112)".

In closing, the book, Divided Minds: Twin Sisters and Their Journey Through Schizophrenia, by Pamela Spiro Wagner and Carolyn S. Spiro, M.D., give an account of what it is like to be twins where one suffers from schizophrenia and the other does not. "Told in the alternating voices of the sisters, Divided Minds is a heartbreaking account of the far reaches of madness as well as the depths of ambivalence and love between twins. It is a true and unusually frank story of identical twins with very different identities and wildly different experiences of the world around them. It is one of the most compelling histories of two such siblings in the canon of writing on mental illness" (http://books.google.com/books?id=C347R0goaa0C&dq=divided+minds:+twin+sisters'+journey+through+schizophrenia&source=gbs_summary_s&cad=0).

Resources:

http://www.thetech.org/genetics/ask.php?id=112

http://www.virginia.edu/topnews/textonlyarchive/March_1994/94-03-10_Identical_Twins_Do_Not_Have_Identical_Risk_of_Mental_Illness,_New_Book_Shows.txt

http://www.geneticsandhealth.com/2005/08/07/identical-twins-one-schizophrenic-the-other-not/

http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~rm35/#NVN

http://www.schizophrenia.com/research/surg.general.2002.htm

http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-1117935.html

http://family.jrank.org/pages/1456/Schizophrenia-Risk-Disorder.html

http://books.google.com/books?id=PYc211F8oxIC&dq=divided+minds:+twin+sisters'+journey+through+schizophrenia&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=5&ct=result#PPP1,M1

Sunday, February 1, 2009

What Is Remission?

Remission is the absence of symptoms for at least six months with the support of medication. In other words, a doctor who has never seen you before may not diagnose you as a person with schizophrenia anymore. Remission is also high functioning in several aspects of life, living independently, goinig to school or to work, and socializing with other people. However, this does not mean the patient is cured or the illness has went away, the illness is still present, however, under control. Remission is achieved with the assistance of medication.

"Published studies suggest that 10% to 20% of people with schizophrenia have remission of their illness as they get older, 20% get worse, but in a large majority (60% to 70%), the course of illness remains relatively unchanged."

To reach remission it is recommended that you aim for a stress-free environment. Therefore, do things to relieve stress such as journaling, exercising, talking to friends, listening to or creating music, making art, and cooking to list a few. Also, communicate with other people your feelings about different things to prevent a misunderstanding. And whenever a stressful event comes into your life take it slow. For example, starting a new job could be a stressor, it may be best to start working less hours and then gradually increase your hours.

If you have a mental illness and it is in remission, how long have you been in remission and what helped you to reach that level of recovery?

Rsources:

1) Remission of Schizophrenia: A Possibility?- http://www.healthrising.com/stories/schrem.html

2) Schizophrenia Remission: Does it Exist?- http://www2.healthtalk.com/go/mental-health/schizophrenia/ask-the-doctor/content/schizophrenia-remission-does-it-exist

3) Remission- How Antipsychotics Help to Control the Symptoms of Schizophrenia- http://www.psychiatry24x7.com/bgdisplay.jhtml?itemname=remission&page=ecall