Sunday, August 22, 2010

Getting Help to get to the Next Step

Some people would come to me and ask for advice on how to get through a phase of schizophrenia, like overcoming a lot of sleep and not interacting with people. However, sleeping a lot could be a side effect of medication or not having anything to do, like in my experiences. I do not give medical advice when these situations arise, because I am not a Doctor, however, I do mention experiences and things I did that worked for me. Furthermore, it makes me recall my own experiences and bizarre thinking processes I used to believe.

For instance, after I moved back home with my mother I became very comfortable not doing anything but either sleeping or staying on the computer all day. I did not socialize with other people outside of the family which eventually bothered me. Therefore, I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone and to interact with other people by attending group therapy. Over time my decision to go to group turned out to solve my problem. Accordingly I got more than I intended. I gained more education on my mental illness by participating in group, socialized with group participants, and I learned to trust my therapist even more. Now, I am a social butterfly. I talk a lot everyday and network with others in the mental health field.

Recently, I remembered I used to have a problem showering. This can be a problem for many people living with schizophrenia at one point in their illness, but not all people with schizophrenia have this problem. It is not that I did not want to take a shower, I did but my thinking processes would not allow me to carry out the task. Therefore, I chose not to shower because I thought the soap would burn my skin. Having an illness like schizophrenia distorts one's thinking processes. When in reality the soap did NOT burn my skin, but was, in fact, cheap, and made my skin very dry.

Moreover, I thought I had a connection with God and that He made me immune to NOT stink and to NOT get sick by not showering. However, I later realized that was not the case. At times, nurses would ask me to shower because "it was starting to become offensive." And I would be thankful that they asked me to shower because I did not have the initiative to perform that task.

Another problem I had was not talking much. I did not have anything to say. During group sessions in the institution I would just sit there during group therapy and wait till the session was over. I understood that I had to attend group therapy, however, I did not have to participate. I was very patient as well. Although in the beginning I did not want to participate in group therapy in the long run it was very beneficial. Therefore in my experience going to group therapy has many benefits and having someone to help me get through the things I found slightly difficult helped me a lot.

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

Alternative Treatments for Mental Illness

The following article was written by a guest writer, Maryanne Osberg.

No matter how much we learn about mental illness, its causes and its uncontrollable nature, it is still a stigma for the sufferer. They’re not just wracked by mental demons, they also have to deal with being ostracized by society and sometimes even their family members. Some forms of mental illness are caused by old age – Alzheimer’s and dementia are now becoming even more common nowadays; others are caused by trauma – the sudden loss of loved ones through accidents or breakdown of relationships leads people to act irrationally and become mentally affected; and yet others come about because of neglect and loneliness – people who live alone with hardly any contact with fellow human beings tend to become mentally unstable and forget their people skills over a period of time.

Whatever the reason for mental illness, it is imperative that the affected person be treated immediately. Drugs and therapy are two standard and well-accepted forms of treatment for mental illnesses ranging from dementia to depression. However, there are other alternative treatment forms that are competent and free of the side effects that are associated with drugs, and if the patient is open to trying them, they can be used effectively to help improve the quality of their life:

Emotional conditioning: The condition of people with depression and similar forms of mental illness improves when you’re able to infuse in them some self-confidence and the ability to believe in themselves. This mental conditioning can be done by a qualified therapist, or better still, by the loving care and support offered by friends, family members and co-workers. The patient needs to be encouraged to take up activities that boost their feeling of well-being and their happiness quotient – if they are creative, they could paint or write; if they like physical activity, exercise and chores like gardening help relax both body and mind; and if work helps, they can be encouraged to keep busy at the office. The key to emotional conditioning is that it has to be tailored according to each individual, based on what they like and are comfortable doing.

Yoga, acupuncture and other complementary methods: Some people find that yoga, Ayurveda, acupuncture and other traditional practices of medicine help people with mental illness when used in conjunction with their regular medication. They’re able to relax and avoid the thoughts that drive them to depression or manic behavior. They gain more control over their bodies and their minds. And they feel at peace with themselves and the world at large.

Social activities: Most forms of mental illness are caused by loneliness or a sense of being unloved and unwanted. An active social life helps prevent the onset of such kinds of depression and also helps alleviate mental illness when it starts to manifest itself. When you stay active and meet and interact with people on a professional and personal basis, you feel good about yourself and your brain gets a positive boost of uplifting energy.

Besides this, the right diet and nutrition and regular exercise can help bring about some routine to a mentally ill person’s life and hasten their journey back to normalcy.

This guest post is contributed by Maryanne Osberg, who writes on the topic of RN to MSN Online. She can be reached at mary.anne579(AT)gmail(DOT)com.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Advocacy -- NAMI: IOOV Training

The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) In Our Own Voice: Living with a Mental Illness (IOOV) training was phenomenal! Many of my peers left the training with a feeling of pride in having a mental illness. Way to go! Correction: the presentation is 90 minutes. It includes five segments: Dark Days, Acceptance, Treatment, Coping Skills, and Successes,Hopes, and Dreams. We stop the video to elaborate on each section in our personal experiences. There are two presenters and the presentation can be fulfilled in a variety of settings.

There is one element of the presentation I would like to discuss in more detail, Successes, Hopes, and Dreams. In the training I told the audience about this blog, which is a success because of you- Thank You! In addition to the blog, I shared information about my non-profit organization, Embracing My Mind, Inc. and how I would like to operate a wellness center with various groups to help people on their journey to recovery. My volunteer work with NAMI, and my hope of graduating from college. However, I forgot to mention the fact that I would like to own my own home and to write a book about my experiences with schizophrenia- good and bad and outcome- today leading groups to educate others about mental health and to reduce stigma.

The main reason why I am participating in and facilitating many mental health groups is because I want to contribute to the elimination of stigma, in general and next self-stigma. Stigma is negative perceptions someone has toward a group of people as a result of lack of education, fear, and exposure to. Self-stigma is when someone internalizes another's negative perceptions and limits their hopes, aspirations, and way of thinking that may eventually have a toil on their self-esteem. I believe education and exposure to mental illness will change perspectives and accordingly reduce stigma. And being an IOOV presenter is another way for me to work on dismantling stigma and self-stigma. If you are interested in seeing the In Our Own Voice presentation and you are in the Atlanta area, please contact me by email:

Recently, I made a huge change and took a great risk and sacrifice. I changed my major from business and marketing to psychology to benefit my goals of having a wellness center through Embracing My Mind, Inc. This was a great risk because by changing my major I pushed back my graduation date tremendously. I had two years of credits/classes in business and marketing. Now, I do not know how many classes will count toward my new major, but I am satisfied with my decision and I think it was one of the most fulfilling decisions I have made.

However, with so many things I have planned this fall I will also focus on limiting my stress. I plan on taking two classes in addition to leading support groups. To help cope with stress I enjoy writing- it is soothing, talking to family and listening to music. I know from research talking to my health care provider that I must manage my stress because if I do not the symptoms can return even though I am on medication. The medication helps me function but stress can sabotage its impact. Because I am anticipating some stress related to school I will write more often and let my doctor know if I experience any symptoms- voices, paranoia, delusions, etc.

In short, schizophrenia is a complicated illness that affects a person's social, mental, and emotional. For me, as I may have mentioned many times before, my illness took a toil on me to the extent that I was not doing anything- eating, drinking, showering, talking, or even moving. The voices and paranoia took life away from me, however, medication, therapy and support gave me my life back!

If you would like to learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., NAMI, and Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

Friday, August 13, 2010

NAMI Training- IOOV

This weekend I will participate in another NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) training for a program called, In Our Own Voice. I am very excited about the training and to have an opportunity to execute the program. The program shows a video of people sharing their personal experiences with mental illness and then the presenter stops the video to share their story. All-in-all the program is about 45 minutes to an hour. I'll tell more after the training.

To learn more about schizophrenia visit Embracing My Mind, Inc., NAMI, Schizophrenia Society of Nova Scotia (Canada).

How to Cope with Dark Seasons

I aim to empower those affected by mental illness. However, the truth about recovery is there will be many dark seasons. Still, I hope peopl...