Taking an Active Role in Treatment For Mental Illness

This entry is about speaking up for yourself and taking an active role in the course of treatment for mental illness. I will be discussing how to ask your doctor questions about individual treatment plans.

In working with a psych doctor, you need to be completely honest. This is not optional if you want your treatment to work. Your doctor may know the human brain very well, but he/she cannot read minds. You need to tell your doctor you your bad days and the details of the worst of what is going on with you. Especially if you are feeling good on the days you go in for your
checkups.

Early in the course of my treatment, I made the mistake of telling the doctor I was doing well simply because I was feeling good on the days that I was seeing him. At the time I didn’t realize that felt good on those days because I was seeing him. I believed rightly so that he would give me new insights into how to go about my treatment routines.

But I was making the mistake of not telling him about my really bad times. For the first two years we were stumbling in the dark as to what worked and what didn’t simply because I glossed over the bad aspects of my illness.

To make up for this I started making notes and keeping journals on how I was feeling from day to day. I was amazed, and I still am, at the amount of changes I can go through during the course of a month or so. I discuss what I learn from these notes with my psych doctor at all of my checkups. I recommend keeping notes and day-to-day journals for all mental illness patients to keep track of your mood swings and emotions. You’ll be amazed.

In addition to the notes of your day-to-day feeling and activities, I strongly recommend making a list of questions to ask your doctor about your illness. Questions can include “What can I do to make things better in addition to medications and counseling,” “What are the chances of my getting better,” or any other question you may think of for your particular situation.

This list of questions is important because it will give you better information and insight into how your illness is changing and your treatment needs to go. The doctor may know your illness, but you alone, know the true extent of your own problems. Mental illness is not a cookie cutter one size fits all deal. Mental illness varies greatly from one person to another. This is even true of individuals that have the exact same diagnosis. Body and brain chemistry play a role in how certain medications will and will not work.

Since no two people have the exact same body chemistry, finding the right combinations of meds can be somewhat of a trial and error deal. Sometimes you and your doctor will hit the bull’s eye with your meds; other times you may miss the board entirely, while others may work some but not as effectively as other types of treatments.

The important thing to remember in all of this trial and error is to never give up. I cannot stress having hope enough. New anti-psych medications are being developed all of the time. There is a great chance that there is at least one combination of medications and treatments that will work for you. Yet I can guarantee that is absolutely no one combination that will work for everyone. There just isn’t and probably never will be. But medical science is making new breakthroughs every year. Many of the best medications were not even in existence even ten years ago.

I recommend that you keep informed on your treatment and diagnosis. Read books about your illness. Read the handouts given out at the doctor’s office concerning your illness and treatments. Do read some of the Internet sites, but do be careful the sites. Some sites are very reliable. But there are many that are not reliable, some that are biased, and some that are complete frauds. Seek the advice of experts know mental illness treatments. Seek the counseling of people who work with the mentally ill every day. Keep informed about your problems. And inform your doctor about your problems.

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Stressing on Stress

 

One of the problems that comes up for those of us with mental illness, myself included, is the issue of dealing with everyday stress and anxiety.  Stress about issues like work, money, taking care of family, community activities, running errands, routine housework and maintenance, etc. can be enough to tax even the most ‘normal’ of people at times.  Yet for those of us with mental illness, every day stress can be overwhelming at times, even crippling occasionally.

I have had to made adaptations to my life in order to reduce the amounts of stress in my life.  Over the years I have found the stress situations such as fast paced working environments, social environments where I’m expected to interact with many people I may not know well, and driving in fast paced heavy traffic areas have all been triggers for not only high levels of stress and anxiety, but also have triggered symptoms of my particular mental illness.  In my case, such instances have triggered paranoid thoughts, high levels of agitation and aggression, and even auditory hallucinations.  As a result, I have to be really careful about the jobs I apply for, the social activities I attend, and make it a point to find someone else to drive when I have to go to a major city and just offer to navigate.  I would not be any fun at all at a cocktail party with a hundred strangers I didn’t know.  Even though I scored really high on intelligence tests as both a kid and an adult, I probably couldn’t handle most office jobs simply due to the stress involved.

Stress is tough for even the most grounded people.  But it can be life altering and crippling for the mentally ill.  It can drag down even the most stabilized mental health consumers if left unchecked.  Sometimes even the stepping back and taking deep breaths isn’t going to be enough.  Sometimes a person just has to avoid certain circumstances altogether or even just know when to walk away.

Schizophrenia and What it Means

In previous posts I have written about my life experiences as a mentally ill individual.  In this post I’m attempting to describe the symptoms of my particular illness, rather than just the results of the symptoms.  I have done this in a poetic form.  So here goes.

 

Schizophrenia and What it Means

 

Schizophrenia means a broken mind,

A mind broke off from the real world.

Unable to separate the delusional

from the factual truth.

It also means crippling depression,

Constant sadness,

And mourning for dead potential;

The loss of a life that never was.

Schizophrenia shattered mind unable to process

most kinds of stress or anxiety

without ghostly hallucinations chanting their condemnations,

Causing wave upon wave of unrelenting anxiety

to slam upon an already tormented, battle weary soul.

How do I explain to old friends,

family, and strangers I meet

I am not well, have trouble holding a job,

When on the surface I look normal and well?

Lurking in the depths of my mind

The monster schizophrenia causes havoc,

launching an all out assault on my mental senses.

My abilities to socialize, to handle stress, to live normal,

are crippled.

I’m not lazy, I’m not a freeloader.

I’d do anything to be rid of this silent monster.