There’s a lot of talk about parity in medicine, especially now during Mental Health Month. Brain disorders are treated differently than other illnesses, so there’s differences in policy, funding, and so forth. But when we talk about parity, we also need to keep in mind that, for carers, nurses, doctors, and other non-disordered people, we need parity in motives.
I’ve come across many people who seem to just want an ordered world–a world free of psychotic people. These people are not acting from the motive of caring and concern for someone who may be suffering. They are acting from other motives. When we think about treating brain disorders, or when we think about possibly curing or ridding the world of them, we need to search our motives, and make sure they are the same for any ill person.
Sometimes I think psychosis simply bothers some people, and they feel the need to rid the world of it. This is not the motive one wishes to move from.
I was thinking about how people strive for things.
Aside from basic survival, and other basics of life, most of out strivings are within a context and a culture. For example, I wanted to be a philosopher, and, currently, most philosophers are associated with a university. So I learned the game of the university. I learned how to teach, how to conduct research, who are the important people in the field, and what the major university departments are. My goal, like anyone’s was to do well in philosophy.
But even as I thought about things that weren’t necessarily tied to my culture, these embedded rational decisions were within the context of a culture and, importantly, with the context of an institution. Institution, here, I use broadly, in the sense of being institutionalized.
Most of out strivings are embedded in this way. These are socially constructed realities within which our reason applies itself.
For example, I was just reading a bit about the prestige bias within philosophy. People from prestigious departments are more likely to get hired at prestigious departments. Many people strive to work for a prestigious department, but few do, and it seems that the bias is towards people who are already prestige-affiliated.
But for me, as an now an outsider, it seems to me that these longings and strivings are embedded within a large university-industrial-complex, which I am not a part of. I’m not saying it’s bad to strive in this way, or that that system is a bad thing. I’m just saying the things related–such as where one applies for a job, that one applies for a job, what one wears to interviews, that one goes to the APA, and so forth–are embedded within a constructed system.
I think most of our strivings are embedded in this way. Our reason is often “applied” within a context and culture. This doesn’t make it any less rational, but it does seem that we may be fooling ourselves if we think, normally, that we are applying reason to the thing-in-itself.
One may think that feral children can teach us a lot about, especially, psychology. In fact, I turned to feral children today in order to think about what happens to a person devoid of the social. I was thinking about this in order to think about the -psycho- in the biopsychosocial.
Here’s what I thought. It’s hard to glean a whole lot from studying feral children. For one, these children aren’t randomly feral. That is, they aren’t randomly assigned to being feral. We can’t do that. It’s unethical.
Which brings me to my point: It would be a major form of abuse to create a feral child. Why would it be an abuse? Not just because they need to be “socialized” and taught “social skills.” It would be an abuse because it fundamentally alters a child for life in a way that pretty much seems unjustifiable.
Being a feral child is, automatically, being traumatized and neglected. So what we can glean from studies of feral children can’t be pulled apart from studying trauma, abuse, and neglect.
This means they don’t provide the perfect case study for looking at the human-being-minus-the-social. The social is already interacting with the child by neglecting it.
There may be some things we can learn, anyway. Scholars think that many feral children fail to learn to speak because they miss a key point for language development.
If these children lack language, they may lack concepts that make them able to strive for things in life. They may have a basic need for survival, so they eat, but they may lack ‘thick concepts’. That is, they may not be able to strive toward being a doctor because they lack language; they lack the concepts involved in being a person who wants to grow up, go to college, and be a doctor.
Now, I know that, from studying what people say about schizophrenia, that I should be careful about what I say about people who have experiences I know nothing about. But, still, I think this may actually help me develop a theory.
On the view I developed while at the store today thinking about the psychosocial, language hooks one into the social. It brings one in to the social community as a full member. In this way, concepts can lead one, make one strive for things. But, also, when reflecting one these things, we can question, develop, make new concepts, and so forth.
Everyone’s favorite neuroscientist, Neuroskeptic, comments on an interesting study which involves adoption and schizophrenia.
I’ve mentioned that schizophrenia is currently considered a bio-based illness. And I am doing research on the biopsychosocial model, which states that schizophrenia can have multiple causes. But, of course, the biopsychosocial model is not in fashion right now. The research dollars go to what’s trendy, and Engel is not trendy right now. (No matter how much social science evidence we may have.)
This study looks at children who had ill biological parents, and were adopted. It found a decreased risk in developing schizophrenia.
Do take a look at Neuroskeptics’ blog post, and consider reading his blog more often! (I have been a reader since grad school.)
I was doing some reading about psychological causes of schizophrenia, and came upon the Schizophrenia Proneness Instrument-Adult Version. This is an instrument to test whether a person is at-risk for developing schizophrenia. I am not trained to administer it—it seems one needs a great deal of training. But it looks interesting, and I will read more about it.
Recently, I started writing mind with an asterisk behind it, like this mind*. That’s because sometimes I want to use the word mind, but I think people equivocate on it. I’m not going to lay out every meaning I’ve found of mind, but I will lay out two:
- Mind: A set of cognitive faculties that enables consciousness, perception, thinking, judgement, memory, etc.
- Mind: The soul; an immaterial, and mystical thing we cannot only vaguely know about.
Yes, I do think people use “mind” in that latter way. When I use “mind”, I mean the former. So I will continue to use an * after “mind” in order to make sure I’m not equivocating, and to be clear about what I mean.
If you can think of another term for mind* that I should be using, please let me know.
I have mentioned this study in previous posts, so I wanted to link to it here.
My undergraduate thesis in philosophy, entitled The More Freely He Breathes: Colonialism in the United States, explored indigenous colonization drawing upon work in Native Studies. All of my prior education prepared me for taking up the research role, during which time I consulted experts across campus, students, experts from other universities, American Indian philosophy, and American Indian Law. In addition, I took a road trip recounting the Trail of Tears from the Choctaw perspective, visiting the reservation of The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, where I was priviledged to experience Choctaw Indian Fair and a speech by Chief Martin. I visited The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, seeing historic, administrative and governmental sites and visited tribal-owned businesses.
I’ve been a little busy; too busy to blog to much. But I have been enjoying this great weather!
There’s an article here about how experts have decided that we need a large-scale, federally funded effort to end stigma of mental illness. It’s a good article. Check it out.
As I mentioned previously, I live on a protected environment. I have also worked with an environmental organization. I did business development for a local environmental nonprofit. I had to quit when I fell ill. But perhaps my biggest environmental accomplishment is helping get the lake and wetlands I live on protected.
I received a great environmental education at Stetson University. I learned about Florida springs, wetlands, and more. When I moved to the place I currently live, I was told the lake was over 80 feet deep, and was naturally spring fed. Some years later, they were beginning to put a development up on the other side of the lake, cutting down acres’ worth of forests. People in my community got together to have the lake and wetlands protected, which they now are.
Since the wetlands are protected, we let everything grow as it wants to. This is what it looks like now:
And this is what I looked like working for the environmental organization:
There’s an article in the Atlantic about how cheat days can boost your self-control. Since today was my cheat day, I was glad to see this. From the article:
[A] recent study suggests that it’s best to plan certain days on which you’ll cast off the shackles of your diet—or budget, or workout plan, or whatever ascetic goal you’ve set for yourself—and really just let loose. Temporarily, that is.
These so-called planned hedonic deviations, or “cheat days,” can boost your drive in the long run.
I had my cheat meal today instead of Friday because my daughter and I are both a little busy on Friday. So I had a delicious burrito.
Last year or so, I posted about living on a protected environment. My neighborhood had the lake and wetlands I live on protected. So, we have been letting things grow as they wish. Turns out, things have grown quite a bit! Take a look:
There’s an article in the Atlantic about job hunting while having schizophrenia. According to the article, 85% of people with schizophrenia are unemployed, while 70% of them would like to work. This gets back to my previous post about how I am an asset. I explained that discrimination still occurs. Check out the article.
It’s been a while since I’ve been in high school, but I still use things I learned in high school every day. I went to a school for teen parents, and we had regular core classes along with parenting classes. I also took nutrition. In fact, I took four whole years of nutrition. That’s how I know I got my day’s worth of fruits today at lunch. This is three servings of fruit.
Although it’s illegal to discriminate against people with mental illness during hiring, it is well known that discrimination still occurs. People with disabilities are disproportionately living in poverty (partly because SSDI and SSI, if they are on that, provide you with just that—poverty) and cannot find work.
Previously, I hid my mental illness from people, especially people I worked with. These days, I live openly.
Let me tell you a few reasons why I am an asset due to my mental illness. Maybe this will change the way people view people with mental illness during the hiring process.
Firstly, having a mental illness, and wanting to be well, makes me, de facto, responsible. I have to go to the doctor once a month for a shot of Abilify. I cannot miss this appointment. It is important that I get my shot on time. The consequences of me not doing this are that I may suffer a psychotic break—considered one of the most disabling forms of disability. So, I am used to both being responsible, and having a huge risk involved in this responsibility.
Secondly, I have been hospitalized eight times. Eight times. How, you may wonder, does that make me an asset? I’ll tell you: Mental illness strikes every income bracket, education level, race, ethnicity, gender, sex, religion, sexuality. Each time I have been in the hospital, I have made it a point to associate with the other patients. I have met people with PhDs from Harvard, teachers, train engineers, gangsters, Christians, atheists. I have bonded with people of every different color and creed.
Thirdly, I have to associate with many types of professionals. My condition has put me dead center in the middle of medicine. I have to have fruitful relationships with (1) my Nurse Practitioner, (2) my General Practitioner, (3) my therapist, and other medical professionals, including nurses and psychiatrists. If these relationships are not fruitful, I don’t get better and they can’t do their job well.
Fourthly, I have had to navigate government bureaucracy. I have been on SSI for a couple of years now. Getting on disability requires that you, even though you may be very ill, navigate a huge system that may seem impersonal and mechanistic. There’s the paperwork, the doctors’ notes, the phone calls. This continues even after you get on SSI. I am required, for example, to give an accounting every six months about how I have spent my money.
Fiftly, I know what it’s like to struggle and to succeed. I have had to learn how to become “scrappy.” A scrapper. It’s not below me to do entry-level work, even though I have a great education and experience beyond entry-level duties. Mental illness knocks you on your butt, quite often, and people like me have had to re-learn how to perform basic acts, like self-care (hygiene, eating, brushing teeth). It is very humbling to be on top of things and then, suddenly, have to remember that you need to wear shoes when you go outside. My success has not been handed to me on a platter. I have earned it.
Sixthly, I know how to manage stress. In fact, I went to counseling for six months one time just focusing on how to manage stress. This is because stress, for me, can cause flare ups in my schizophrenia. I’m not the only one prone to stress-related illness, though. There’s a whole body of research on how every day stress affects most people. Most people. Not just me. However, I have had expert education and training in managing stress.
Seventhly, I am creative. It’s not just me who is creative. Anyone who has had to deal with a serious, chronic illness has had to get creative sometimes. I have had to try different treatments, different doctors, different therapists. And I have had to be open to different and new treatments, therapies, solutions. Sometimes, I have proposed my own solutions to these challenges. I have discussed treatments with scholars who work in the area of psychiatry.
Eightly, I have a unique perspective. This is because, when you are ill, you come to a point where you are free to think differently than most people who are going about their daily lives. Not often do we have time to pause and reflect on the important things in life. But I have. Not just as a philosopher, but as an ill philosopher. Illness forces you to pause and take stock of things. As an ill philosopher, I have been forced, on top of my choice, to take a perspective of reflection and mulling over what’s important in life. This has given way to creative and unique thinking.
These are but a few reasons why I may be an asset to an organization. I’m sure that other people with mental illness have similar ways in which they are assets. Think about that next time you are hiring.
Contrary to what many people think, the government doesn’t actually want people to be on disability. They make it hard to get on and easy to get off.
I see my doctor soon, and will discuss again whether or not she thinks I should work.
They have incentives to get off disability, or see if you can work.
I write a lot about having schizophrenia, but I don’t often write about what it is and how it differs from other mental illnesses. Here’s a short article over at PsychCentral that discusses the difference between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Schizophrenia is less common than bipolar disorder and is usually first diagnosed in a person’s late teens or early to late 20’s. More men than women receive a diagnosis of schizophrenia, which is characterized by having both hallucinations and delusions. Hallucinations are seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. Delusions are the belief in something that isn’t true. People who have delusions will continue with their delusions even when shown evidence that contradicts the delusion. That’s because, like hallucinations, delusions are “irrational” — the opposite of logic and reason. Since reason doesn’t apply to someone who has a schizophrenic delusion, arguing with it logically gets a person nowhere.
Schizophrenia is also challenging to treat mainly because people with this disorder don’t function as well in society and have difficulty maintaining the treatment regimen. Such treatment usually involves medications and psychotherapy, but can also involve a day program for people who have more severe or treatment-resistant forms of the disorder.
Because of the nature of the symptoms of schizophrenia, people with this disorder often find it difficult to interact with others, and conduct normal life activities, such as holding down a job. Many people with schizophrenia go off of treatment (sometimes, for instance, because a hallucination may tell them to do so), and end up homeless.
There’s a large amount of evidence that exercise does not make you lose weight. I have lost over 10 pounds with really no changes in my exercise. All of my changes have been with my food, which is the most sound way to lose weight.
Yet, I plan on joining the gym at the beginning of the May. Why do you think that is?
It’s because, if you want to be fit and healthy, you should exercise. Just because exercise alone doesn’t make you lose weight doesn’t mean you should give up on exercise. Losing weight is not the only goal in life, especially if your aim is to be healthy.
So, exercise away. Just make sure you understand it won’t help you lose weight very much.
Right now, my doctor doesn’t want me working. I’m simply not ready, and I have to come to terms with the fact that I may never be ready.
I have a very good friend who has bipolar disorder. He is also on disability, and we recently discussed working. He was feeling like he should work, but was unsure about whether he could handle it.
He’s been stable for a few years, and here’s the conclusion we came to: He remains stable by (1) taking meds, (2) going to counseling, and (3) maintaining a therapeutic lifestyle 24/7.
We concluded that, without any one of these, he would probably go back to the hospital.
It’s the same for me.
I continually do things that are therapeutic—whether it’s participating in poetry, painting, writing, reading, photography, walking, and so forth. I maintain a therapeutic environment for myself 24/7, under the advisement of my doctor.
It’s only been a year since I have been in the hospital, and just under a year that I’ve been on my current medication. That’s far too early to tell whether my medications will prevent me from having a psychotic break if I should try working. I have, in the past, had a psychotic break every six months to a year. I still vividly remember my last break, and I don’t want it to happen again.
Keep in mind that I was given a poor prognosis. The very first psychiatrist I saw told me I should expect to lose a lot of cognitive functioning. I’m lucky to have not lost as much as they thought. I chalk it up to having good care, and fighting like hell.
But I still struggle with not working. The feeling of not working for a living.
If you browse around my website, you will see that, from an early age, I have been involved in many things, and have been very career oriented. For a person like me, not working is devastating.
This is true even though I have doctors’ orders.
I know I have a legitimate disability. There’s no doubt about it. I have had serious psychotic breaks. I am trying, each day, to maintain my health, above all else. I don’t like becoming psychotic, and it’s not like my medicine is so magical that it will, with 100% efficacy, prevent a psychotic break.
They know that, for example, stress can exacerbate psychiatric symptoms. So, I try to limit my stress, and engage in stress-reducing activities, like practicing mindfulness.
Currently, I have to come to terms with the fact that I cannot work—my doctors says so, even—and that I may never be able to work again.
For me, coming to terms with this myself is one thing; a big thing. Realizing this is but one step in coming to terms with my condition and lot in life.
But the even bigger thing is having regular people understand this. When people meet me—when I am out in public—they may not know I have a mental illness. (Unless I am symptomatic. In that case, I may be in my pajamas in public, or looking a huge mess.) I have an “invisible disability.” Not to mention, many people still have stigmas about mental illness, making them think a mental illness is not a real illness just because you can’t really see it.
So making other people understand that I may not be able to work—and that I may be on SSI (and poor)—for the rest of my life is difficult. But it’s something that’s important.
I hope that, if you are reading this, you will not judge people who have to be on disability and who cannot work due to disability. There’s a segment of society that makes people feel like it’s not a legitimate option. This often stems from conservatives who tout the notion that people exploit the safety net system. For so-called Christians (as most of them allege they are), they are highly skeptical and not especially loving when it comes to caring for the wretched of the Earth. (WWJD?)
In my experience, it’s very difficult to get disability. It wouldn’t be easy to fake it. I had to be hospitalized eight times and given a poor prognosis from several doctors before I was given SSI. I was suffering, and denied SSI (and, thus, healthcare) for several years. The whole process is insult to injury. And then you end up living in poverty, anyway.
But my whole point is that each of us can make a difference. We can change things so that people like me, who have to be on disability, do not have to constantly feel like we have to justify this to people who have no business prodding for our medical information.
The fact is, I have tried working several times. Everyone who knows me knows I didn’t want to go on SSI. I wanted to work. Take a look around my website—I like professional accomplishments. But I had to go on SSI because I simply could not work.
Let’s try to make things easier for people who are already suffering enough.
Several months ago, I decided to stop wearing makeup. I just stopped cold turkey and haven’t looked back. I’ve had to get used to a new aesthetic. A natural aesthetic. I was used to a faux healthy look, using makeup. (This is how this post ties into my current posts on health; most women, whether they consciously know it or not, use makeup to fake a health look.)
It was rather easy for me to get used to seeing myself without makeup, and even thinking I may be somewhat pretty without makeup. This is because I have a broad sense of beauty. I am well-acquainted with art.
I have had problems with makeup in the past. It has damaged my sensitive skin.
I have been using both of these daily for about three weeks now.
This is all part of my Grand Plan to beef up my self-care.
It may seem that eating is straightforward. You get legitimately hungry, so you eat. But research has shown that the majority of eating is actually psychological. I like psychology, so I have found this research interesting.
If you have ever tried to lose weight, you know how difficult it is. Luckily, I have some tips to share with you here. These are psychology tricks to use as you lose weight. They have helped me and, if you are at all interested in psychology, they may also independently interest you.
What do you think of when you think of a person with schizophrenia?
If you are like most people, you probably don’t think of technology savvy people, using said technology to better themselves.
But according to this new survey, that’s exactly what the picture of schizophrenia is in America, currently. That puts me in line with other people with schizophrenia. I use a lot of technology–computer, smartphone, tablet–and I use all of this to connect with other people, including other people with mental illness, and gain information and other things to help me.
When I started eating better, I cut my calories and decided upon more realistic portion sizes. We humans are really bad at estimating the portions we are supposed to have. I include myself in this. However, I also decided I would have one cheat meal per week.
This is my third week of having a cheat meal. I decided that every Friday I would go out to eat with my daughter. It’s easy to have a cheat meal when you are eating out because portions at restaurants are out of control. But this way, I get to go out and have some fun with my daughter and we both get a good meal. She is in college, so she really appreciates going out to eat one day a week with me.
Oftentimes, when people think of cheat meals, they think of eating all kinds of sweets, chips, and so on. Not me. I just go out and have a meal. It’s typically a pretty healthy meal, too. For example, last week, we went to Olive Garden and I got soup, salad and breadsticks. I chose the minestrone soup. All in all, it was fairly healthy for eating out.
Today, however, we decided to go to a Chinese buffet. It’s hard to count calories for that. I know I had a lot of food. But the best thing was the fortune cookie at the end of the meal, which told me something I needed to hear. Duly noted.
As readers know, I recently had my yearly physical. The only thing that was off was that my lung capacity wasn’t as good as it could be. That’s because I was smoking. I have since quit smoking. If you are having trouble quitting smoking, drop me a comment here. I tried several different ways before I could finally quit. And several people I know have recently quit or are quitting.
I may look healthy, but looks can be deceiving. That’s why it’s so important to get a physical and get all of those tests done. That way you know for sure if you have high cholesterol, high blood sugar, or something else. Several people I know have been diagnosed with different things, so I thought it was important to take my physical seriously, and then take precautions for my health.
I’m lucky. I naturally like healthy food. When I say I’m losing weight, it’s not just a matter of counting calories. A calorie is not a calorie, as it were. It matters where your calories come from. That’s why it’s important to get your fruits, vegetables, and so on. These things can make a difference. So, too, does avoiding the wrong things.
When someone who looks overweight asks me about how they look, I simply tell them I care about their health. You can look overweight and be internally healthy. Likewise, you can look skinny and be an internal mess. Don’t believe me? Have a look at this article. It is but one that I have read on the subject.
I was recently telling someone about how in shape I was in my twenties. Well, here’s a picture of me from that time. I believe I can get close to that again. (Mentally and physically.)
I’ve mentioned previously that BMI is something to take with a grain of salt. I use it as but one measure of health. It does track some things I’m looking for, and is a quick, easy measure for me to look at, taking into account other things.
I am losing weight–and becoming more healthy–under the advisement of my doctor, as I suggest anyone do. I’m not really close to being at risk for anything, but I’d like to stay that way. Besides, being on antipsychotics messes with your metabolism, among other things, and as soon as someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, their risk for things such as diabetes, heart disease, and more, goes up. There’s evidence that some of the things I’m doing can stave off those things, and that’s what I’m hoping for. It’s bad enough for me to deal with one chronic illness (schizophrenia) without dealing with others.
In light of all that, I thought I’d share this article about BMI. It goes into detail as to why BMI alone is not a good measure of health. It also discusses other options to look into that do track health. Have a look.