Sunday, May 24, 2020

In Honor of World Schizophrenia Day

World Schizophrenia Day, May 24, 2020
There is a universal unspoken code that negates the truth about schizophrenia, it is stigma. Stigma comes in a wide range of negative beliefs that uphold myths as facts. As an individual living with schizophrenia I experienced stigma first-hand.  It was hurtful and unfair. I have been labelled "demonic." One of the most common questions I get from men I date when I decide to disclose is "are you violent?" 

Stigma translates into fear, discrimination, negative labels, and ignorant beliefs. Countless persons do not understand what schizophrenia is and do not know what recovery can look like and thus, continue to place me and my peers into a box with limitations. Stigma is perpetuated by different groups especially some religious people, world wide influential platforms such as Hollywood, and a magnitude of people all over the world. 

There are several myths about schizophrenia, here are the most common:
  1. Myth #1: Schizophrenia is a personality disorder.
  2. Myth #2: Violence is a symptom of schizophrenia.
  3. Myth #3: People with this illness are demonic.
  4. Myth #4: Schizophrenia is caused by poor parenting.
  5. Myth #5: Recovery is not possible for people living with this condition.
Let me stress that these are myths. First, the term schizophrenia was coined by a Swiss psychiatrist, Dr. Paul Eugen Bleuler, in 1910. The word schizophrenia means, "a split mind." Schizophrenia is not a personality disorder. Schizophrenia is a thought disorder.

Violence is not a symptom of schizophrenia. Schizophrenia holds a range of symptoms categorized by positive symptoms, disorganized symptoms, and negative symptoms, while violence is not a part of any of these symptoms. Schizophrenia is characterized by hallucinations, delusions, and psychosis among other symptoms.

Schizophrenia is not a moral-based diagnosis. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder. It is an invisible medical condition that means a chemical imbalance of the brain. It is caused by different factors such as environmental stressors, a brain injury, it  is also genetic and runs in families. Schizophrenia can be brought on by drug use, trauma, and other causes. Typically, the onset of this condition occurs in adolescence through age 30. However, it can develop in children. Generally, men get the illness earlier than women. Personally, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at age 20.

Finally, recovery is possible for individuals living with this diagnosis. I am the evidence. I have been in recovery for over 13 years. I am fortunate that the medication treatments work and minimize symptoms. I live independently and parent my eight year old son.

Today is World Schizophrenia Day (May 24th). It honors "the father of modern psychiatry," a French physician, Dr. Philippe Pinel. On May 24, 1793, Dr. Pinel made the decision to unchain patients living with mental illness, which was unheard of during that time. His decision brought attention to better treatment, care, and a more humane way of addressing people living with mental illness. However, stigma was prevalent then and still is today.

Organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and Schizophrenia and Related Disorders Alliance of America (SARDAA), work tirelessly to combat stigma along with several other groups and organizations.

Like so many of my peers the onset of my diagnosis was chaotic. It effected my entire family, we did not know what we were dealing with nor understand how proceed along the journey of recovery. It effected my education during the third year of my undergraduate program. I did not know what the symptoms were and that I was experiencing them until it was too late. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia through legal interventions of jail and state psychiatric hospital. Through this experience I learned about my mental illness, tried different medications, and fortunately found hope to excel at recovery. I had an enthusiastic doctor, amazing cheerleader- my mother and empathetic relatives, who were thirsty to learn more about schizophrenia and to support me. NAMI Georgia paved the way for me to learn coping strategies with the aid of volunteering, peer support, and training.

If you or somebody you know lives with schizophrenia, or any mental illness, I encourage you to obtain more information about it. Get involved in a support group or clubhouse to become familiar the recovery culture through peer support or interact with persons living in recovery. Medication is not the only means to gain a quality life in recovery. 

Here are alternative ways to help cope with mental health: therapy, music, art, supplements, Buddhism, mindfulness, journalling, taking care of a pet, mastering a gift and hobby, exercise, meditation, praise and worship, adopting a support system, and volunteering, and managing a strict self-care routine to list a few coping techniques.

If you have a mental illness, you are not alone. Recovery is possible. I define recovery as the act of striving to stay in good place. I stay in my good place by mastering my self-care routine, medication, therapy, engaging my support system, working on my craft of self-publishing books, listening to motivational talks, and keeping it moving physically by walking. I praise God for restoring my mind, allowing me to have access to health insurance and medication, also for my life journey of recovery which is fulfilling. My recovery has challenged me beyond measure, but also developed me into the compassionate advocate, peer, and mother that I am proud to be.

Finally, to learn more about my recovery story purchase my book, What's On My Mind? Coping Takes Work, Volume II, which is a collection of blog entries, and additional stories by my peers, a caregiver, and my former therapist.

Lastly, here are my sources on facts of schizophrenia and World Schizophrenia Day:
Please subscribe to this blog by email and share with others. Also, if you want to share your recovery story- peers, professionals, and caregivers, and supporters, email me to learn more and lets post it on this blog. 

-Thank you.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

How to Restore Your Motivation and Manage Depression

Regaining motivation is tough but it is possible.
Resiliency is an inherent gift. In spite of setbacks we learn how to manage. However, some of us unconsciously turn to quick coping strategies that may spiral out of control and lead to an unhealthy lifestyle. These quick fixes may include but are not limited to smoking, substance abuse, overeating, abuse of prescription drugs, and dysfunctional relationships. Ultimately these habits may lead or worsen depression and our mental makeup. 

My depression looks like extreme exhaustion, lack of motivation, oversleeping, poor eating habits, irritability, isolation, anxiety, no excitement, and minimal fluctuation in mood. This is not me. Depression may also include: poor hygiene, suicidal thoughts, recurring hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. Depression looks different for everybody. However, the common denominator is feeling low, unlike ourselves, and suffering in a mediocre state of mind and lifestyle. If any of these feelings define you right now, I encourage you to seek professional help such as counseling, calling a hotline, reaching out to law enforcement (specifically, a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officer who is trained to help in crisis situations), and to seek mental health treatment by a professional.

Generally, restoring motivation may look like gaining different rewards for various assignments and tasks. Frequently, people utilize money, dessert, and a range of other rewards. These do not apply to mental health issues. In fact, people who do not suffer from lack of motivation and depression may offer suggestions that sound good. Still, they do not understand the magnitude of the problem. Dealing with mental health concerns is different. Trust me I have experienced the lows of depression and lack of motivation and it is disruptive to my routine and ability to function.  

Reaching the motivation to act is challenging but it is possible. I have schizoaffective disorder which is a combination of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. My schizophrenia symptoms are minimal, but the mood swings are an ongoing battle. I experience the vicious cycle of mania followed by depression and the wide range of its detrimental effect it has on me. Every day I strive to understand my mental health needs. Sometimes I catch my fluctuated moods, while other times my support system acknowledges the shifts and tells me. 

Finally, to help overcome challenges with depression and lack of motivation I carry out a range of coping strategies that may help you or somebody you know. I do not perform these activities in any particular order. When I recognize that I am on a downward spiral I reach out to family and friends more often. I get moving with a stroll around the block for about 20 minutes or more. These walks enable me to feel the sunlight that helps rejuvenate me. 

Occasionally, I keep a mood journal which identifies my highs and lows according to a scale such as the doctor’s office of 1 through 10; 1 feeling in crisis mode, 10-excellent. My mood journal helps me determine whether I am more balanced, manic, or depressed when managed over the course of a several days in order to see a pattern. Cooking and other task becomes a significant chore that is difficult to overcome. Therefore, I cook more meals when I feel up to it or eat more snacks and stock up frozen dinners. Other times I carry out responsibilities in short increments of time. 

Ultimately, I reach out to my treatment team. I seek therapy and medication adjustment. In the past, I took both antidepressant and anti-psychotic medications. Now I am on a mood stabilizer and anti-psychotic. I understand some people do not engage in medication regimens. I am an advocate for whatever works best for my peers, however, I use medication to help me cope.

From peer to peer I hope this article provided insight and support. Again, I encourage you to seek professional attention if you are suffering from depression. There is no such thing as light depression. Do not minimize your symptoms. If you are experiencing depression and it effects your daily lifestyle and routine, I urge you to contact a professional for guidance. 

Also, I wrote a book that discusses the benefits of therapy, Coping Takes Work. It is a collection of rewritten blog articles. Therapy helps the whole person, try it again and again to restore your best self and also your motivation. 

Lastly, we are resilient. Continue to strive to stay in your good place, whatever that may look like. Recovery is unique to everybody. Please share these coping mechanisms to help peers, caregivers, and professionals to support the journey of recovery on how to restore motivation and to manage depression. 

Here is a resource to help manage during the dark times: 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-8255

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