Last night, I signed up to participate in NAMIWalks. It’s a walk to raise awareness and funds regarding mental illness. I have a page set up where you can donate to NAMI. If you are unfamiliar with NAMI’s work, here’s what I posted on Facebook about it:

This year, I am participating in NAMIWalks. It’s a walk to raise awareness and funds regarding mental illness. I am supporting NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) because of various work they do. I have participated in support groups and found them very helpful.

I have schizophrenia. It’s not the only thing about me, but for a while it seemed like it. I have had psychiatric care, and currently get outpatient care via medications, case management, and therapy. Yet, I felt alone. The support groups that NAMI holds have been very helpful to me in that regard. Currently, several of my dear friends also have mental illness, and they have also found NAMI to be helpful.

It’s not just the support groups, though. NAMI has acted in advocacy in ways that have helped me. They have, for instance, put out helpful facts about people with mental illness after mass shootings, when everyone blames and fears people with mental illness. As someone with schizophrenia, I find that helpful. I don’t want people to fear me and see me as a potential threat.

Poor People and Having a Voice

Right now, as I write this, my area, Daytona Beach, is struggling with a “homeless problem.” City officials don’t know how to handle the problem.

Some have proposed a shelter in the area, but the city doesn’t know if it can afford it. They want surrounding cities to pitch in. For all the discussion of how to solve the problem of poverty or homelessness, I rarely see the voices of actual poor or homeless people. Their voices are lacking in these discussions. They are treated as a problem for others to solve, not as human beings with their own thoughts and feelings on the subject.

I have found that, even though the world of a poor person may be limited because of a lack of resources, they still usually know what they need. They are the best ones to solve the problems they face. But, too often, others try to speak for them.

I’ll tell you a story: I used to give money to homeless people in Daytona Beach. Back when I was in college, I’d see homeless people panhandling. I’d stop and give them a few bucks. I never thought twice about it.

Frequently, I hear how people don’t trust that the homeless would spend the money on food or something they actually need; that they’d spend it on alcohol. I never cared about this. I figured they need money, otherwise they wouldn’t be asking for it. We rarely talk about the alcohol and drug problems of the wealthy, but when it comes to homeless people, we are ready to speak up. Why is it that we are so harsh on poor people?

My local newspaper continues to report on the homeless problem, but rarely are actual homeless people consulted in their own affairs.

Having a voice at all is difficult. Having any social or political say when you are poor is a challenge. But it is especially paternalistic when other people think they know how you should best live your life. Often, the solution is a shelter, even though Housing First initiatives, which provide homes to homeless people outright, have been shown to work. We don’t think we can give poor people money directly, even though, if you ask them, that’s what they need. We don’t think we can just give homeless people homes, but places that have done that very thing have solved their homeless problem.

Perhaps, in the future, we can actually listen to poor people, especially when considering their affairs.

Good Films Depicting Mental Illness

Do you know of any good films depicting mental illness? One that comes to mind for me is Call Me Crazy. If you haven’t watched it, I urge you to. Not only does it deal with my illness, it also deals with PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, and more. It’s a really good film, and, in my mind, helps end stigma.

Why *Have* I Been in the Hospital?

I mentioned previously that every time I have been hospitalized (8 times), it has been against my will, and against the law.

So you may wonder why I have been hospitalized. There have been times, no doubt, that I have acted oddly. I have had strange beliefs sometimes when I’ve had psychotic breaks. Apart from being disturbing to others, they were mostly harmless. What I mean by that is that I’ve never been a danger to anyone.

People often overreact, or act inappropriately, when it comes to schizophrenia. What’s best is to acknowledge that my beliefs and emotions are very real to me, and to try to deescalate my symptoms. And, if all else fails, for my family to call my doctor. It’s not against the law to act oddly. And when you have schizophrenia, it’s a sign you are ill and need compassionate concern.

The police are often involved in mental illness–to an extent not seen in any other medical condition. It’s a horrible state of affairs. I have written a poem about one time I had a psychotic break and the cops came for me. It’s called Fight With God.

Would Changing the Name of Schizophrenia Help End the Stigma?

There’s an article in the Huffington Post about how changing the name of schizophrenia might help end stigma. The proposed term is “psychosis spectrum.” That may be more accurate in terms of what people actually experience. There are varying degrees of schizophrenia. Personally, I never related much to the descriptions that are provided in much of the literature because, for example, it rarely states that schizophrenia can be episodic. I have experienced psychotic breaks that are episodic, so I never related to the image of a person who is constantly in a state of psychosis. So, “psychosis spectrum” may be more accurate.

Poor People and Freedom of Movement

I have about a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. Currently, gas prices are relatively low, so I put as much gas in my car as I could afford. Aside from local friends’ houses and the free springs in the area, there’s not many places for me to go which do not require money. Going places costs money. I don’t have money.

It’s true that I could walk or ride a bike, but Florida was recently ranked top worst places for bike riders. More people die on bikes each year in Florida than in any other state. This is because the area is not bike or pedestrian friendly. The bus system here, too, is not as sophisticated as in New York, D.C., or Chicago, all places I have been.

So I rely on my car. Most people around here do. I’m lucky to have a car because it is a backup home for me. I always think, if all else fails, I could live in my car.

But my car is pretty stationary, and has been since I got on SSI. I simply cannot afford to go anywhere. I live in what some see as a tropical paradise, and have many theme parks and other entertainment around me, but I cannot go there. I cannot afford it. So I stay at home.

Freedom of movement is a basic human right, and mine is infringed upon simply because I am poor. These days, I travel one mile away from my house at the most, usually to shop for something I need. Other than that, I stay at home.

It wasn’t always this way. I am well-traveled for a poor person. I have visited most of the eastern and central United States. So I know what it’s like to have freedom of movement, and have it taken away by virtue of being poor. Let me tell you, it stinks.

Travel is one of the things wealthier people like to brag about. Being well-traveled is seen as an important thing to be in higher income brackets. Wealthier people can afford freedom of movement, and even boast about it. I cannot afford it.

The Florida Baker Act Law

File this under: Abusive people.

In Florida, there are really only two reasons one can be hospitalized against their will. 1. If they are homicidal and 2. If they are suicidal.

Every time I have been hospitalized, it has been against my will. However, in none of those cases was I homicidal or suicidal.

In Florida, the Baker Act law, which states when a person can be hospitalized against their will, is one of the most abused things. And it’s abusive to send people into the hospital against their will when they do not meet the requirements. I have been in contact with a lawyer who handles such cases, and, if I am hospitalized for reasons other than 1. or 2. above, I am to contact them.

I work with my treatment team to ensure I get the care I need. I am a grown-up, and I have rights. It’s abusive to treat me as otherwise.

Volunteer Recognition

I just received the newsletter for the American Patient Rights Association. I was recognized for my work as a Web Content Editor:

A big thank you to our Volunteer Website Content  Editors

APRA also wishes to recognize the great work by our volunteer website content editors Jennifer Lawson and Stephanie Kumar. They work hard to keep our website updated with the latest and most relevant news and information with respect to patient safety and rights, particularly having to do with hospitals.

Meddlesome People

I have a friend on Facebook who is very ill. She has a neurological disorder. She has to have caregivers take care of her. However, someone on Facebook reported her to the state, saying she needs help and is being neglected. So, the state came to her house to check things out.

She is very upset about this because she is trying to stay out of a nursing home. Calling the state is a step towards her going to a nursing home.

So, I want to say that although I share things on here, I have things in my life taken care of. I play by the rules. I know the rules of SSI, and I am playing by them. I go to my doctor and get good care. It’s very paternalistic for people to meddle in other people’s affairs.

American Patient Rights Association

I volunteer for the American Patient Rights Association. You can join for free. It’s a consumer advocacy group, and everyone will deal with health care system in their lifetime. You can learn how to save on medical costs, and even how to save your own life or the life of someone you know. Check out their website and follow them on Facebook!

On Having Schizophrenia

I have schizophrenia. But, during my daily life, I don’t think of myself as someone with schizophrenia. I think of myself as Jennie; a person. That’s what I am first and foremost. For the longest time, I didn’t tell anyone I had schizophrenia, including some family members, and of course, people in my professional life. Especially people in my professional life.

The fact is, there’s a huge stigma associated with mental illness in general, and schizophrenia in particular. I am not in a constant state of psychosis. I have psychotic breaks every once in a while. They have been frequent enough and bad enough that I am on disability, which is hard to get. It keeps me from working full time. I can write because I can self-pace when I write. So that’s what I do.

I want everyone who comes to my website to come away with a different understanding of schizophrenia. There was a point in time that I didn’t want my mom telling anyone that I have schizophrenia. I told her to tell people I have cancer. That’s how bad the stigma is. Think of me as a person with any other illness. You wouldn’t think badly of them for being ill, would you?

I cannot help my disorder. I certainly didn’t plan it. It’s not something I’d want to have, but I have it. It keeps me from doing things I want to do. But, overall, think of me as Jennie–a person. Not as “a schizophrenic.”

Have You Ever Wondered What It’s Like in A Mental Hospital?

Now that my new collection of poems is out, I can treat you with the knowledge that I have written more. In fact, I have several projects underway.

My most recent collection is called Hospitalized. It deals my my mental illness, and being hospitalized in a psychiatric facility. I usually go to a place in Daytona Beach. This poem is about a time there. It’s called On the Inside.

Order Now: Songs that Remind Me of Philosophy

Greetings! My CDs came in the mail today! You can now order Songs that Remind Me of Philosophy at my store (tab above).

The CD includes the following poems:

  1. Uncatchable Birds
  2. Songs That Remind Me of Philosophy
  3. Abandoned
  4. The Other Man
  5. You
  6. For All of X
  7. The Enlightenment
  8. Introduction
  9. A Rare Occurence
  10. The Ring
  11. Jilted
  12. The Good Life

Here’s a sample poem, entitled For All of X:

Poor People and Education

One of the most pernicious stereotypes about poor people is that they are dumb. They may be less formally educated, or, like me, they may have formal education. But let me tell you a story about how I got my education.

When I was growing up, the thing I wanted most was to be educated. I dreamed of going to college. I didn’t, of course, think that college was for poor people. I knew I was poor, and I didn’t think there was a way for me to go to college. But I wanted to learn. When I was about 13, I asked for the complete works of Shakespeare for Christmas. My mother delivered. I got the complete works of Shakespeare. I rented plays from the local library, and watched while reading along. I taught myself Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and others. I was self-taught, for the most part.

As I got older, all I knew was that I wanted to go to college. I applied first to a community college, then to a private university. I graduated, and went on to graduate school. As I was writing my Master’s thesis, I had my first psychotic break. But I had that break after I was able to get well educated, formally and informally.

The poor people I come across are not stupid. They sometimes have less formal education, but they have life knowledge. They know about how systems work. They have taught me a lot about how to navigate the disability system, how to navigate the mental health system, and more. I have discussed with other poor people how to manage money. One of my good friends lives several hours away from me, so instead of visiting, which costs a lot for either of us, we use Skype. We are fortunate to have internet access, but it comes at a price. When we go the tiniest bit over budget, we have to stay in and not do anything in order to save and rebound. The majority of my friends, in fact, are good with money. They just don’t have much of it.

My friends are almost all formally educated, too. Most of us went to college to learn. So, most of my friends are lower income and educated.

Even now that I’m not in school, I still keep up with the news, conduct scholarly research, and whatnot. My friends read a lot, and think a lot. We have intellectual conversations. So, no, I’d say there are plenty of smart poor people.

Why Study Literature?

There’s an interesting article here about reading literature. The key findings are thus:

Consider […] the work of social psychologist David Kidd, who in collaboration with his doctoral advisor, ran a series of experiments designed to show that reading literary fiction challenges readers cognitively in a way that might have potentially beneficial effects. Kidd found that reading literary fiction—as opposed to reading non-fiction, popular genre fiction, or nothing at all—improves a test subject’s ability to perform well on social psychological tests of both cognitive and affective theory of mind—a social psychological theory that posits an ability to attribute mental states to others as well as oneself, such that one understands that others might have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.

Righteous Babe Records

I listen to all kinds of music, including indie. In fact one of my favorite artists is Ani DiFranco. There was a point in time in which she said everything I was thinking. She seemed to have a song for everything. If you are unfamiliar with her, check out her website. She made her own record label in the 90’s, and has been putting out one album per year since then. I have most of her albums. And, if you are a fan of music, and interested in other independent artists, check out the other artists signed on her label.