Blasting Mental Illness Stigma and Giving Hope For the Future

Image

I suppose this could be filed under rant and frustration with normal people. There are times when I feel like I’m making some difference with this blog and that I’m making a positive impact on people.  Then there are times I feel like I just as well be talking to myself because I don’t seem to be getting through to people.  Right now I feel like I’m not making any kind of positive difference.  Most neurotypical people still think it’s alright to shun and discriminate against the mentally ill.  Many still think we are dangerous and to be locked up permanently out of sight and out of mind.  Mental illness is still stigmatized by popular culture and misunderstood by the public at large.  I’m sure I have people in my Facebook friends list who think I’m just dreaming up my problems because they think I’m weak, lazy, and don’t want to do any real work.  I am definitely not making these problems up.  I would gladly give ten years off the end of my life if it meant I never had to suffer from schizophrenia again.  I’ve been fighting this mental illness since age seventeen, so for over half of my life now.  I can’t remember what it’s like not to suffer from delusions, paranoia, depression, easy anger, and excessive fear.  I can’t remember the last time I talked with even close friends about things like politics and religion without fear of having a psychotic breakdown and ruining the friendship.  I can’t remember what it’s like not living in fear and paranoia of authority  figures, whether they were bosses, landlords, or police officers.

I never understood the mentality that nothing can go wrong with the human brain.  We don’t stigmatize people with heart problems, diabetes, blindness, deafness, or cancer.  We as a society accept that things can go wrong with every other organ in the human body.  But as a society we don’t seem to be as accepting that things can go wrong with the human brain, arguably the most complex instrument in the currently known universe.  I am somewhat hopeful with the programs began by the U.S. government and the E.U. that attempt to reverse engineer the human brain.  Maybe we can find out why some brains malfunction and develop mental illness.  I’m not delusional enough to believe I will ever be cured of schizophrenia, but perhaps better treatments can be developed and maybe future generations can find a way to cure mental illness.  As it seems to me, the brain is probably the final true unknown of medical science.

I imagine that my friends and readers get sick of me always writing about science and tech advances being the true benefactors of humanity.  But I get far more encouragement out of seeing science and engineering advances made on what seems a weekly basis now than listening to political debate or religious dogma.  There are cool things happening in science practically every day in this day and age.  I am thrilled to hear that private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin as well as NASA are seriously talking about sending people to colonize Mars within the next twenty years.  I am thrilled that we could soon have a vaccine for HIV, which I believe will be looked upon by future generations with the same horror we now look upon smallpox and bubonic plague.  I am happy that we are finding possible ways to treat anti biotic resistant bugs.  I know some of my farmer friends will want to crucify me for this, but the possibilities of vertical farming in big cities and lab grown meat intrigue me.  Supposedly there are medications in trials that could reverse obesity that have already been tested on lab rats.  Something like that, providing it doesn’t interfere with my psych medications. would be a life saver for me as I’ve been overweight since puberty.  That alone would reduce burdens on the health care system in many developed countries.  I am anxious to see lab grown replacement organs make the organ and tissue donor system obsolete.  I would love to see driverless cars take off and make owning your own car as much of a relic as the horse drawn carriage.

We are living in some of the most exciting times in human history, if not the most exciting times.  Yet these wonders seem to be lost on most people I interact with on a daily basis.  I don’t know why people lost their sense of wonder, creativity, and possibility.  To listen to most people we aren’t advancing at all, as if everything from hear on out is going to be down hill.  I don’t understand why most people are pessimistic and fearful.  I don’t see enough people saying ‘we have problems but we’ve solved problems in the past and we will continue to do so.’  Why is it considered normal and grown up to be worrisome and blind to the beauty and possibility of life?  That is yet another idea you normals seem to be born with that I wasn’t.  If I have to be constantly depressed, anxious, angry, and mopey to be considered an adult, then screw it.  I want no part of it.  I just see too much possibility and good things happening in the world to be consumed by worry.  Even your religious texts tell you to ‘not let your hearts be troubled’ and ‘don’t worry about the future.’  Seems to me these texts need to be spoken from the pulpits more than fear, hate, and wrath.

We are living in cool times with progress being made every hour of every day.  Breakthroughs in science, technology, health, and humanitarian efforts are being made all over the world.  It’s not just the U.S. who has advanced technology, advanced research, and freedom.  The world is not falling apart.  The world is not going to hell in a hand basket.  The past is not better than the present.  And I am saddened and tired of hearing  doom and gloom from people who don’t bother to look at the facts and numbers nor look out how far we’ve come just in the last few generations, let alone since we left the caves.  Make no mistake, we will continue to make progress in spite of your complaints and fears that the world is falling apart.  The doers and achievers of the world ain’t listening to the Chicken Littles of the world.  I may not be a great achiever but I’m not listening to the doomsayers either.  I have had enough.  I have heard doom and gloom my entire life.  I have no idea how many supposed end of the world type predictions I have weathered.  I laugh at such predictions now.  I find it annoying that many people are giving themselves needless grief and sadness simply because they can’t or won’t look up facts.  We have the quasi magic Google machine and Wikipedia that would put the Library of Congress to shame at our finger tips. We just have to use them.  Keep complaining and crying if you wish, but I will continue to look up the facts and the truth.  I will attempt to dispel the myths in this blog.  To paraphrase Jack Palance from the movie ‘City Slickers’, normal people “really do worry about a lot of crap that don’t matter.”

 

Medications and Mental Illness

Saw my psych doctor last week.  We haven’t changed any medications or dosages this winter.  Winter has usually been a pretty stable time for me, at least after all the nonsense of Christmas blows over.  We added a third anti psych med in October after I have a vicious but short lived psychotic breakdown.  It seems to be doing alright.  It definitely makes me fall asleep and stay asleep.  I have to take it right before bed.  Any other time I will be asleep for at least five hours straight.  I take all my meds at once right before bed.  It’s easy to remember things that way.

With these current medications I’m taking, I have to real careful about not missing doses.  I have found I don’t sleep well and have vivid dreams when I accidentally skipped doses with these meds.  Some anti depressants I was on years ago, like Prozac, could be forgiving and not affect me too bad if I missed a dose.  I suppose Prozac is one of those drugs that can build up in your body over time.  When I decided I was going off my meds back in early 2007, I was on Prozac.  At first it felt good to be not taking medications every day.  Notice I said at first.  I was able to work 60 hours a week again and was getting interested in dating again.  But the good times didn’t last.  I was off the meds entirely for almost two months before reality came back to hit me.  I probably should have committed myself for that breakdown.  I went off the meds again in early 2013.  Felt alright for two months once more before the reality came back with a vengeance.  I was lucky and smart for realizing I needed to go back on the medications.  Both times I was on medications that probably stayed in the body longer than most.  That’s got to be the only reason I did alright for weeks before I had problems.

My current medications are not as forgiving if I miss a dose.  But they have fewer side effects.  When I was on most of my previous medications I did well mentally but not physically.  I gained weight on almost all my previous psychotic medications.  I gained a lot of weight.  I gained almost two hundred pounds from when I started on psychotic medications in late 2000 until I started my current medications in spring 2013.  I didn’t get it that I had to force myself to be active and that I was using the psych medication promoting weight gain as an excuse to overeat and not be active.  But since I got serious about exercise and eating healthy I have lost forty pounds in two years.  I still have a long way to go but I am on the right path.

If I had to give advice on whether one should go off medications because of fears of weight gain and resulting problems, talk with your psych doctor and general practice doctor both before you do anything.  Do not do anything like that on your own.  You will have a breakdown and probably have to be hospitalized.  I got off easy in that I didn’t have to go to the hospital because I recognized that my mental health was falling apart early on.  Also, it should be noted, that medical advances being what they are, newer treatments with fewer side effects are being developed regularly.  I didn’t think the genetic ‘black box’ for schizophrenia would be found as soon as it was.  It was found only twelve years after the Human Genome project was finished in 2003.  I don’t know if I’ll ever live to see an outright cure for mental illnesses, but I am remaining optimistic.  It is certainly exciting times we are living in.

Medical Advances, Nutrition, and Mental Illness

It’s been a long while since I last posted to this blog, so an update is in order.  This post will be about medical advances and mental illness.  This is another reason for those of us with mental illness to hope that the future will be better than the present.  Many of the medications that are being used to help treat mental illnesses now didn’t even exist fifteen, twenty years ago.  

New discoveries are also being made in nutrition and how full body health effects mental health.  If you don’t get proper nutrition, the body won’t function well.  If the body doesn’t function well, the brain won’t either.  We all need to make it a point to eat healthier and more balanced, mental illness or no.  Let’s not kid ourselves, the typical American diet of highly processed foods and fast food isn’t healthy.

If you are under treatment for mental illness, always tell your doctor about all of the over the counter supplements you are taking.  Some of these, especially herbs and anything with alcohol in it, can cause serious side effects when mixed with anti-psych drugs.  Know what you are getting into.  Stay informed.  Read all of the handouts that come with your anti-psych drugs.

There are rapid advances being made in research.  These advances can and will find better treatments, perhaps sooner than we think.