Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mind Over Matter - Catatonic

The mind is so amazing and powerful it is a terrible thing to lose...

Imagine not eating for a week or more. Or even drinking water and being hospitalized several times just to keep you alive. At first, you are hungry, however, as time passes you no longer have an interest in food or drink. You do not even have hunger pains! Eventually you do not have to relieve yourself.

You are confined to your bed, not because you are tied down, but because your mind is not functioning properly. You are frozen in time, you do not move a muscle (literally). Your mind is wasted- all the education, memories, and daily functions are not registering; sometimes you hear those around you sometimes you don't- you are catatonic.

Imagine going to court and having to be strapped down because you refused to wear shoes. Or even, not noticing your own mother, grandfather, and aunt in the courtroom with you. Or, even noticing you were in court sitting before a room full of people that are deciding your future. I was zoned out, not aware of what was happening around me.

To rationalize things I thought I was being poisoned by people supervising me. Before I was catatonic I would intentionally throw my plate on the floor so that I would be given another plate so that I can eat. Later, I was put in the psychiatric ward at the jail. They labeled our plates because of our unique diets. Then I thought I was not eating because I was fasting to worship God. It was confusing and I was losing a lot of weight- I lost about 30 pounds off of my slim frame.

After I was mandated by the judge to comply with a medication regimen I slowly regained consciousness and my sense of reality. I drank protein drinks in addition to the three meals that I was given. I got my mind back! probably can't begin to imagine that! But, I can because it happened to me!

It is interesting how some people can quit street drugs, alcohol, or tobacco cold turkey, but I guess it is mind over matter.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada), or Embracing My Mind (EMM).

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Is Treatment Optional?

Is treatment optional? That is one of a few questions I asked the group the other day. For me, treatment is not optional, because in the past I made a poor decision that was costly.

During my nervous breakdown, I was extremely confused and paranoid. I did not recognize which trolley/train to get on although I rode public transportation many times before. I sought a newspaper because I did not even know the date! I was a mess. Moreover, I thought everyone was interested in me and out to harm me. I began trying to disguise myself by removing my glasses and anything that identifies me such as my Bible, which I carried with me everywhere.

As you may have read in an earlier blog entry, I thought I saw demons. They were everywhere! In all the people around me. I was outnumbered and could not escape. And then I saw a sitting truck with the door wide open and the keys in them. Aha! I thought, this is a blessing from God and my way to escape everyone. I got into the truck and started driving. i thought to myself if I could get to a store to buy some scissors to cut off my hair I would escape everyone.

The radio was on and Sean Kingston's song, "Girls, Girls, Girls," I think the song is called was playing. The lyrics went something like this... "The girl makes me suicidal, suicidal, can't get over her". I took the song literally and thought it was a message from the devil trying to get me to commit suicide, but that wasn't happening!

Soon police were in my rear view mirror and I got scared. I had never been pulled over by the police. My anxiety shot through the roof (on top of the high level it was already at due to conflicting voices), and I wasn't stopping. I drove through the city with the police on my tail, went the opposite flow of traffic, and eventually stopped by a head on collision into a building. Thank God I was wearing my seat belt.

I was outnumbered by the police and I surrendered, because the truck wouldn't start up again. As I sat in the back seat of the police car all I could do was pray. Besides, I thought I was Jesus Christ being persecuted all over again. In fact, I thought the police car I sat in was about to blow up, I thought the police were in on it, trying to stop me from my mission, which I don't know what it was, but I know must have had one being a prophet.

I spent five months in jail and in the state hospital. At first, I was so out of it I did not know what was really going on- my freedom was suspended because I had committed a crime. And later, I was told I hit two cars, but the people were not seriously hurt- Thank God!

Now, on medication I am aware of my surroundings and do not want to put myself in jeopardy again. In jail, I learned of my diagnosis, paranoid schizophrenia, and was put on medication. That was a blessing in disguise because it could have gotten worse.

The medication helps me. I can think clearly without the hassles- hallucinations, delusions, paranoia, and anxiety. I don't worry my family anymore, or myself for that matter!

So is treatment optional? Hell no! I want to live life to the fullest and if medication is my magic, then so be it...

If you are struggling to get someone to take their medication try reminding them of their episode and really troubling moments such as depression, suicidal thoughts, not eating, going to the hospital, etc. I know when someone tried to convince me to take my medication they reminded me of how many times I went to the emergency room and said that was not normal, and that I am sick and need medication. That was my nurse, while I was incarcerated. His comments got me to take my medication.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Friday, September 18, 2009

EMM Jump Starts First Support Group Meeting

Good news: Embracing My Mind launched its first support group, Strengthening Each Other, at the mental health center yesterday, and it went very well.

Group participants engaged in group by sharing their personal testimonies and reading the handouts out loud. My therapist co-facilitated the meeting with me and we took turns asking participants questions related to the exercises.

We studied my personal experience with schizophrenia by reading an earlier blog entry, "What is Schizophrenia to Me," from Saturday, March 7, 2009. Some of the topics we discussed was medication an option? Symptoms and stigma. For example, I portrayed extreme paranoia that led me to stop eating and showering because I thought someone was trying to poison me, and also tamper with my soap causing it to burn my skin. Stigma was mentioned when I recalled I was turned down in housing, the potential landlord assumed I would be too stressed to live there.

The great thing about group was the members could relate to me and to each other. At the end of group my therapist had members share something positive about group, which made me feel really good, and then she said she is proud of me for taking on this group. I am very excited about having the opportunity to host groups and to directly advocate for mental health education and recovery.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Embracing My Mind (EMM), or the Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

NAMI Georgia Training (Peer-to-Peer Education)

As some of you may have read in the previous blog entry I participated in NAMI training this past weekend, and it was great! The training was set in place so consumers can teach a nine-week course for other consumers about mental illnesses and recovery. The course is called "Peer-to-Peer Education". Now I am a Recovery Education Mentor, (Yay!). NAMI provided the hotel for three nights, as well as lunch and dinner (the hotel provided breakfast). The training was Friday through Sunday. The actual training took place at a local Atlanta university, so it was very nice. Overall, it was the people that made the training great.

There were all sorts of people at the training. Some with their own businesses, others with full-time jobs, and degrees in various fields. They were inspiring to me because despite their mental illness they were able to achieve their goals- running marathons, helping others with mental illnesses, being certified peer specialist, and achieving recovery.

We engaged in interesting exercises that led us to understand that we are one body no matter what the differences are. Completing the "Relapse Prevention" exercise was an eye-opener, we labelled our experiences, discussed our feelings and thoughts, and rated them. Another interesting exercise was acknowledging the pros and cons of sharing our diagnosis with other people. That exercise and the advance directive was the most profound assignment we did. Again, an advance directive is a document that lists the consumer's desires, and who would make decisions for them if they are unable to make decisions.

Parallel the Peer-to-Peer training was the Family-to-Family training. I wish I had known about that training so my family could take that course. One of the class participant's family partook in the training and enjoyed it, they said it was in dept.

Today I went to group and it went very well. We studied post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), I learned a lot of new things. For example, everybody who experiences a dramatic situation does not automatically have PTSD, and a person could be diagnosed with it months or even years after the dramatic experience. A dramatic experience may include, but is not limited to the following: war, abuse, rape, accident, etc. Some of the symptoms are: panic attacks, depression, nightmares and night sweats, etc. One important thing to note is that although some other mental illnesses may have similar symptoms that does not mean a person necessarily has PTSD. Treatment may include medication and support groups.

Also, Embracing My Mind (EMM) will start groups at the local mental health center Thursday, September 17th. The group is called Strengthening Each Other. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to sharing it with you...

If you want to learn more about schizophrenia visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia (Canada).

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Overcoming Schizophrenia Blog Anniversary (Yay!)

Dear Reader,

It has been one year since I started the Overcoming Schizophrenia blog (Yay!) and we have learned a lot about schizophrenia and other mental illnesses together. In short, I have blogged about the gender differences in schizophrenia, hardship with health insurance companies, myths and stereotypes, dating and relationships, and of course, my bizarre encounters when schizophrenia took over and portrayed the other side of Ashley (i.e., confusion, anger, fear, denial,etc.).

Again, I learned of my paranoid schizophrenia diagnosis in the summer of 2007 when I had an unfortunate situation that led to my arrest, hospitalization, and eventual recovery stage. Since then, I have experienced independent living with other women with mental health concerns, reuniting with my immediate family, and volunteering with various non-profit organizations; and starting a support group, Embracing My Mind.

I continue to take medication to help cope with the symptoms of schizophrenia, (i.e., for me, hallucinations- seeing things that are not there and hearing threatening voices that other people do not hear- high anxiety and paranoia, delusional- believing that I was a prophet or Jesus Christ Himself! And believing that my own relatives would poison me?!), I am blessed that these symptoms are under control and dormant.

Participating in various support groups has inspired me to get involved in mental health education through this blog, and to even start a support group, Embracing My Mind, which will kickoff on September 17th at the local mental health center, and I am VERY EXCITED!

Through Embracing My Mind, I will share my experiences with paranoid schizophrenia, and strive to achieve a safe haven for other people living with, and who are affected by, mental health concerns. Hopefully, the support group will create bonds among group participants and enable everyone to try and overcome mental illness together by voluntarily taking responsibility for their recovery, goals, and empowering one another. For the time being, the group is only for a specific clinic, however, when I reserve space elsewhere the group will be open to everyone; families, caregivers, consumers (people living with mental health concerns); male and female, etc.

In fact, I will be attending the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) training this weekend, and I will blog about that experience with you shortly afterwards. I appreciate you for coming back to read about my opinions and experiences related to mental illness. If you have schizophrenia or are connected to the illness in some way and keep a blog please share your link and I will post it with the other 'schizophrenia blogs'.

If you are a partner, parent, child, caregiver, friend, health professional, or consumer affected by any sort of mental illness, I want you to believe that recovery is possible. When schizophrenia hit me hard, I pushed those that love me away, believed that everyone was suspect, stopped eating, showering, and LIVING...I cried for no reason, stopped doing the things I enjoyed such as going to church and writing, and scared myself by believing that everyone was a demon, and had mixed emotions about everyone because I believed I could read their minds, which had bizarre and conflicting thoughts.

These last couple of days I attended group therapy at the local mental health center, and by just being there and hearing different people's testimonies it reminded me of God's love. Group participants spoke candidly about their own situations and were frank and loving while giving others their opinions and suggestions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009 is World Suicide Prevention Day, I encourage you to observe this day because it affects so many people with mental illnesses, and other people.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit NAMI or Schizophrenia Society of Novia Scotia(Canada). Also, check out Embracing My Mind(EMM).

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