Archive for Stigma

How to Talk to Your Doctor About Meds

As anyone who has read my posts knows, the last few weeks have been touch and go. I’ve had some depression and paranoia problems which have accounted for a lot of weirdness in my daily life, from dealing with neighbors, to just generally being out in public. There was even a die when I went as far into my head as to contemplate what would happen were I to die.

Thankfully, this time I refrained from posting about on facebook, instead letting my family know. My family is my main support structure and thankfully we were able to get me in to see my psychiatrist to tweak my meds.

For the two weeks leading up to the appointment though, I was nervous, my doctor was assigned to me by the community mental health center and I’d be lying if I said she’s not exactly my favorite person in the world. That being said, I was worried that when I would go in she would want to change around all of my meds and get me on something new and completely different than the cocktail that has essentially worked for me for years. It would be safe to say I don’t entirely trust my new doctor but I seem to always forget that most of the time, doctors have my best interest in mind. Read More →

The Struggle of Relating to People When You Have a Mental Illness

When I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago, it was almost impossible for me to talk to people let alone relate to them.

If it wasn’t the constant anxiety and paranoia keeping me engaging, it was the burden of having an 800 lb. gorilla that nobody understood hanging over my head.

How could I possibly get on anyone else’s level when there was this immense self-stigmatizing diagnosis of being crazy sitting on my shoulders?

I was a singular unit among the normal people. I had never met anyone with schizophrenia before. I had no experience with anyone who had mental illness and to say it was scary knowing that I was crazy would be an understatement. Read More →

Schizophrenia and Dating, One Example

It started innocently enough. I got there at 4:21, we had joked about being old and eating dinner at 4:30 so I proposed, at the very least, beers. She was a kindergarten teacher and it was a Monday afternoon, Presidents day. A day when she’d be off work. I sat down at a table in the corner and ordered a hoppy beer called ‘Conniption’ from a waitress that seemed to young to be serving beer, she had a sweet smile that I thought could be trouble once my date arrived. All I knew of the girl was that she was into live music, enjoyed beer and had a bit of a bite to her. I had said that I’d be free in a couple of weeks and she came back with a proposal for Monday, I said “I guess that would work” and she immediately shot back “You guess?!, I’m flexible.” It’s hard to convey that kind of bite via text message but she had done it and me being the cautious calm man I am, I backed down immediately and agreed to Monday afternoon. This already felt like dangerous footing. For some reason the fact that she would retort like that spoke to an ironic craziness or at the very least a dangerously inflated ego.

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You Are Not Alone with Schizophrenia

In the eight years I’ve lived with schizophrenia I’ve seen horrible days and I’ve seen days where the sun seemed to shine just right on my face and strike a certain happiness in my soul.

Throughout everyday though, I’ve struggled with my thoughts.

There isn’t a day that goes by where a bit of panic doesn’t creep up into me. In those moments it can feel like the world is against you. It can feel like you are the only person alive who is feeling that certain kind of panic but I’m here to tell you that you’re not. Read More →

Facing Stigma as a Person with Schizophrenia

I was diagnosed with schizophrenia ten years ago. In that time, I’ve been able to stabilize mostly and regain a sense of self that was all but lost in the first few years I was sick.

As a writer, the next challenge is always, “What should I write about?” and to say the least, schizophrenia has given me so much to put on the page.

There are so many different challenges and facets that someone with schizophrenia experiences that to cover everything I’d have to fill a library.

I won’t lie that the illness is also a blessing though, writing about my experiences has gotten me bylines in some of the most prestigious publications out there and it’s provided a basis for self sufficiency. Read More →

The Stages of Grief After a Mental Illness Diagnosis

In the ten years that I’ve lived with schizophrenia, I’ve seen good days and horrible days, I’ve had successes and I’ve had failures but nothing can compare to the despair I felt in the first few months and years of living with the illness.

They say there are five stages of grief when you lose a loved one. I can tell you from personal experience that those five stages also exist and are just as intense when you’re told you’re crazy.

Instead of losing someone you loved you’ve lost yourself or at least your conception of yourself.

First there’s denial, in my case I didn’t believe my diagnosis, I thought “they’re all playing a trick on me to make me think I’m crazy, it’s all a ruse” I thought the psychiatrists office was a set up and I was so reluctant to accept the diagnosis that I couldn’t even make it through a therapy session without storming out. Read More →

Learning to Live with a Diagnosis of Schizophrenia

I can remember when I got the news. It was 2006 after a period of almost two years of the irrational fear that people were making fun of me, which then elevated to agoraphobia and delusions that I was a prophet and that the TV and the radio were talking to me and sending me secret messages.

It all came to a head when I was unequivocally convinced that I was tasked with saving the world from it’s ills. I went on a cross country trip to the U.N. to spread a message of peace thinking it was my divine ordination. When I got home I was greeted with a mandatory seventy-two hour hold at the psych ward in the community hospital. That seventy-two hours turned into seven days and somewhere around the fifth day I was told I had a chronic incurable brain disorder called schizophrenia.

This was a condition that had to be managed, I was told, I would have to take powerful antipsychotic medication every day for the rest of my life and I had to accept that the things I thought were so real were just tricks my brain was playing on me. Read More →

How to Have Schizophrenia and Be Ok

Schizophrenia is a strange kind of fun. On the one hand your lapses into crippling paranoia and delusional thinking will give you the edge you need to be sharp and cutthroat in social and business interactions, after all if you think everybody’s out to get you, you don’t have to make friends which opens up a lot of room for focusing on your specific goals. On the other hand, these same lapses into crippling paranoia and delusional thinking will make you so lonely and fearful of the world around you that you won’t even want to interact and will therefore have endless amounts of free time as you sit huddled in the corner of your dark studio apartment with a loaded glock ready to strike at even the most subtle sound emanating from your neighbor’s apartment.

This article is of course satire and attempting to make light of a horrible situation the subject of which I’m allowed to joke about because I’ve had schizophrenia for eight years. In it, I’ll guide you through the steps of accepting your tragic fate and fighting to overcome it and one day having a semblance of functioning normally in society.

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Disclosing Your Illness to New People

A funny thing happened the other night. I was out with friends and I was asked what I do for a living.

I told these new people that I write about mental health.

Naturally more questions came about my experience in the field and I jokingly said, “Yeah I’m crazy” my better friends and I laughed it off and while there was a moment of silence and a little awkwardness it felt much easier than disclosing a hard scary truth that I had been diagnosed with a major mental illness.

I’d be lying if I said I was a stranger to disclosing my illness to people I meet as it pretty much comes with the territory of what I do for a living.

Many times though, I’ve gotten way serious and vulnerable about it and people don’t really know how to react to it.

Joking about it is relatively new to me and though it’s still a bit awkward it can take a lot of the scary power away from it.

There have been times I’ve disclosed that I’ve gotten dirty looks or I’ve been asked whether I’ve killed anybody and to be honest the reactions don’t bother me anymore.

It’s always tough though to be honest with people. Especially people you’ve just met.

People can react in a lot of different ways to something of that magnitude and taking the sting out of it is a skill you have to hone and practice just like social interaction, or writing, or photography, or anything that requires grace and finesse.

The point of this all is to say that it doesn’t have to be as tough as it seems. If people pry there’s no harm in being honest and I’ve found that the people who are the least understanding are the people you don’t want in your life anyway.

There’s an old adage by Dr. Seuss that says that those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind and that’s been true in pretty much every interaction where my mental illness has come up as a topic of conversation.

Honesty is an incredible tool in dealing with the ins and outs of living with a mental illness. It can relieve you of the stress that’s building in your chest for a long time and it can cement incredibly strong friendships and relationships.

I’d be remiss not to mention the fact that a great deal of stigma still exists regarding mental illness but diffusing that stigma with jokes or crazy stories can move you past that initial point of weirdness.

If you still don’t feel fully comfortable disclosing just say that you have experience in the field. Or that you went to school for psychology (sure it’s the school of life and hard knocks, but you’re damn right you’re educated)

Overall, it doesn’t have to be a burden you carry with you that you have a mental illness. You don’t have to go around telling everyone, but again, those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

Vulnerability is key in building relationships and friendships and those of us with a mental illness sometimes don’t have the choice of whether or not to be vulnerable.

The point is, if you don’t let your label weigh on you it won’t.

I’ve faced this situation more times than I can count and in every instance, honesty is the biggest most important thing you can do. If you can joke about it even better. You don’t have to tell the people you don’t want to tell either. Sometimes you have to be your own judge.

Either way, I’ve been there, so just know you’re no alone.

Good luck out there!

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How to Accept Your Mental Illness Diagnosis

I can remember when I was in the hospital. It was after a long week of hitchhiking along the east coast thinking I was a prophet and I had just gotten home and told my parents about my mission. I can remember breaking down completely, emotionally unable to process the fact that I was actually certifiably insane. It was a constant struggle between me telling myself that things I was thinking weren’t real and trying to come to terms with the notion I had always had of crazy people being dangerous and unhinged. I was one of those people. I was crazy.

The point is, it took me a long time to accept my diagnosis and to put in the work I needed to do to get better.

I’ve been there and I know what it’s like to lose yourself completely in the idea that who you are as a person is flawed.

I thought before I educated myself that craziness was a character fault but that’s not true. It’s biological, it’s chemicals and it has nothing to do with who you are as a person. That notion still stuck with me though and I was afraid for a long time about what people would think and why I had done the things I did.

My brain wasn’t working correctly and because of this I thought that I was a defect. Read More →