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Justice at Both Ends: Preventing and Treating Psychotic Disorders through Social Justice

Introduction

It seems like a cruel joke. People who are already in disadvantaged positions are, on top of that, vulnerable to brain disorders. Then, the society that produced the disadvantage (poverty, racism, sexism, etc.) stigmatizes the person for having an illness.

I want to be transparent here. I am diagnosed with schizophrenia. I live openly with my illness. I am also trained as a philosopher. I had my first psychotic break in graduate school, where I was studying ethics and political philosophy. My doctors told me to apply for disability, but I wanted to work. After a series of various jobs and hospitalizations, I finally applied for—and was granted—SSI. The day I was granted SSI, I cried. It had been an extremely rough ride.

One of the jobs I applied for, and kept until I was hospitalized, was as a case manager. As a case manager, I was trained to treat people in a holistic way. I was to look at each client from a variety of perspectives. But, also, I was trained to advocate for justice for my clients. That’s what I want to focus on here.

Theory and Practice

I want to set aside the theories of justice we learn about in school for a minute, however important and interesting they are. Although my academic training is mostly in philosophy, I have also done an assortment of different work. I have had time to think about—and live out—the issues I am discussing. So I’m not going to apply any certain theory of justice to the problems I am discussing. Besides, Bernard Williams would think applying a theory to a problem the way that is often done would be really uninteresting. And, of course, I want to be interesting.

I am also not going to get into a debate about psychiatry versus psychology. Brain versus mind. I think training as a case manager was good experience for me in diffusing that dichotomy. I am trained to deal with both medicine and psychotherapy, as a case manager. And I am trained to think about the soul and the brain, as a philosopher.

However, I am going to refer to schizophrenia as a brain disorder in this paper. Because that’s what it is, whatever, ultimately, causes it. There is something going on differently in my brain when I am psychotic. I’ll set aside issues of dualism, materialism, and so forth, and let other philosophers better trained in that area deal with those issues.

I am also going to set aside cultural differences. Although there has been interesting anthropological work on the differences in the expression of psychosis, there is also consensus that psychosis occurs in every culture. What I will focus on, however, is treating psychotic disorders in the United States. That’s where I live and am best trained.

“What happened to you?”: Social Causes of Schizophrenia

We know that social factors can be a cause in brain disorders. For example, Holocaust survivors are at an increased risk of developing schizophrenia. There is, we may say, only so much a mind can take.

This does not discount other factors involved in developing brain disorders. However, I want to discuss various abuses and forms of disadvantage at play in developing psychotic disorders.

Prior to taking up research specifically on psychotic disorders, I did a great amount of research in Native Studies. Native Studies is an interdisciplinary field, and I had to learn and read in many different fields—anthropology, psychology, sociology, history, law, criminal justice, philosophy, to name a few. In the social and psychological work I read, it was clear that the effects of colonialism had an impact on the minds of indigenous people. They are at an increased risk for many illnesses, including brain illnesses.

This informed my early notions of brain illness: that it’s mostly social. So, when I became ill, I didn’t know what caused it. (It could be, however, that I have, in fact, experienced a lot of hardship, and was prone to developing a psychotic disorder.)

I eschewed psychotropic medications, and psychiatry in general. I was held, for periods of time, in hospitals and told to be “compliant” (to take medications). I sought out therapy, however, and had a few wonderful counselors. Counselors, I knew, treated things differently. They are not medical doctors shoving, as it were, pills that caused me horrible side effects down my throat.

Eventually, however, I was given an antipsychotic that both managed my symptoms and didn’t cause side effects. I am now a firm believer in taking the appropriate medication at the appropriate dosage, along with therapy, case management, and so forth.

One of my good friends, who, for reasons to protect them, will remain anonymous and vague, works for the military. This is not a delusion. They really do work for the military, and they are not the kind of person you would imagine an ethicist would associate with. The fact is, it’s their job to kill people efficiently and effectively. They are not a soldier. They make the plans that others carry out.

Let’s just say that this person knows how to inflict all kinds of torment on people. (This does not carry out into civilian life.) This person once asked me the most important question anyone ever asked me about my illness: “What happened to you?”

They wanted to know what kind of torment, abuse or disadvantage I experienced that made me have schizophrenia.

I wanted to tell them that I was a teen parent, who had to fight for her education, and was treated very badly by, especially, conservatives as a teen parent. I was told I was going to Hell, and funding for my high school, which was my joy and hope in the world, was always threatened.

I wanted to tell them that I had experienced sexism in the field of philosophy that made me very uncomfortable.

I wanted to tell them that I experienced a lot of sexual harassment when I was working as a teaching assistant.

I wanted to tell them that academia is not made for parents, especially teen parents.

I told my counselor instead.

Stigma

There are at least three kinds of stigma: (1) Self-Stigma, (2) Other Stigma, and (3) Stigma by Association. The literature discusses each of these.

Self-stigma is when a person internalizes the stereotypes and “othering” the society holds about them. They may think they are, in fact, a bad person for having schizophrenia. They may think they are at risk for committing violence. They may think they should be punished, or closely watched. This can cause a person to have low self-esteem, live “in the closet,” and not seek treatment.

Other stigma is when people who do not experience psychosis have negative views and discriminate against people with psychotic disorders. This can include not wanting to date a person with schizophrenia, not wanting to have conversations or be friends with people with schizophrenia, and not wanting to work with people with schizophrenia.

Stigma by association is when people who are associated with a person with a psychotic illness feel shame about having that person in their family, school or workplace. They may lack education about people with brain disorders, and there is evidence that proper education about these issues can lessen stigma by association.

Stigma can lead to discrimination by making people treat one differently. As someone who has dealt with gross amounts of stigma, I can say that people have treated me as a potential threat, a wild-eyed disarray, and needing to be “compliant” and tamed. This, even when my symptoms, which have never been threatening, were at bay. Stigma leads one to “see” you differently. It leads to bias in how your actions are interpreted.

I have learned to deal with stigma by living openly and “calling it out.” I risk all kinds of things doing this, but it’s the only thing I know to do.

Justice at Both Ends

We may live in a world where luck is involved, but there’s luck and there’s luck. We have the ability to change our world, to make things better for other people and ourselves. We have the ability to reduce the amount of negative luck people experience. For example, if we alleviated poverty, there would be fewer brain disorders, just as if we reduce child abuse, there would be fewer cases of child PTSD. If we want to reduce the amount of brain illness in the world, we need to be committed to justice.

At the same time, there are people who do and will continue to suffer. For those people, we need justice at the tail end—we need justice for people with brain disorders. This means making people feel OK with accepting government benefits, increasing government benefits so that people with brain disorders are not living in poverty, and, of course, reducing stigma.

I hope I have made a case for justice before and after psychosis.

Indigenous Studies

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.

Been Busy

I’ve been a little busy; too busy to blog to much. But I have been enjoying this great weather!

New Research on Weight Loss

Yes, I am still eating healthy.

But, I came across this article today about new research on weight loss and obesity. It’s very interesting, and points to future medical treatments for weight loss. Give it a look!

Self-Care on a Budget

Here’s a good article about self-care on a budget. I have done (and do) all of these things.

Large-Scale Effort Needed to Stop Mental Illness Stigma

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.

Therapeutic Uses of Creativity

Here’s a good article about how creativity–and the arts–can help people with mental illness (and other disabilities).

Happy Earth Day

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:

How Do You Know When You’re Ready to Work?

I was doing some reading about how to know when you are ready to work when you have a mental illness. I came across this helpful article written by a person with mental illness who now counsels people who are looking to go back to work. Have a look.

How Cheat Days Boost Self-Control

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.

Mexican Cheat Meal

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.

Things Have Been Growing

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:

Job Hunting with Schizophrenia

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.

What I Learned in High School

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.

Why I Am an Asset, Even Though I Have Schizophrenia

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.

NAMIWalks

I’ve mentioned previously that I’m participating in NAMIWalks. The walk in Orlando is on April 30th. It’s an awareness raising and fundraising event. Please consider donating to NAMI through my NAMI walker website. It is safe and secure.

My page is here.

Incentives to Work While on Disability

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.

About Schizophrenia

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.

About schizophrenia:

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.

Busting Myths About Disability

I came across this article with facts about disability, and I thought I’d share it here. It contains information about how hard it is to get disability, what kinds of disabilities you have to have in order to get disability, how many people are rejected, and so forth.

Why Exercise

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.

Exercise can lengthen your life and, if you have schizophrenia, like I do, there’s evidence that exercise can help you quite a bit.

So, exercise away. Just make sure you understand it won’t help you lose weight very much.

When Having a Disability Means You Can’t Work

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.

A Rare Beauty Post

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.

But I do use two products, and I’ve been tracking how they work. I use St Ives Apricot Scrub to exfoliate. And I use Aveeno Ultra-Calming Moisturizer to moisturize and for SPF protection.

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.

Psychology and Eating

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.

Breaking Stereotypes

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.

Fast Food Nation

I stopped by my favorite bookstore today and got the book Fast Food Nation.

Cheat Day

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.

The Appearance of Health

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.

Throwback Thursday

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.)

BMI

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.

SparkPeople

SparkPeople is the app I use on my phone to track my food and weight.

I don’t believe in diets. That is, I don’t believe in temporarily restricting food, eating only certain things, etc, for a certain amount of time and then going back to the way you ate before. For one thing, that never works. You may lose weight, but you’ll gain it back and, because the set point in your brain for your weight has changed, you will probably end up weighing more than you did before the diet.

I believe in making small changes in your life that you can keep. And then keep them. For example, I didn’t have a problem with drinking sodas or other beverages with calories (I drank mostly water), but I wanted to add something to my diet that would be good for me and not add calories. So, I chose unsweet green tea, which I now drink throughout the day. This isn’t some ill conceived plan to lose weight fast. Green tea does seem to speed up metabolism a bit in somewhat large amounts, but I wanted the cancer protection, antioxidants, and so forth. Green tea is more potent and perhaps better for you than vitamin C.

But you can’t just drink green tea for 12 weeks and expect to see the well-documented benefits. It’s something you have to keep up.

It’s the same with dieting. I plan to keep tracking the food I eat, and how much I weigh, even after I hit my target weight. It’s a good idea to track your food intake. I did it when I was pregnant. It was good for the baby.  And I can do it again now that I know it’s good for me.

I don’t track my exercise, though. That’s because people tend to overestimate the calories they burn through exercise and underestimate the calories they consume. So, I track my food intake and weight only.

I was losing 2 pounds a week for a month. Then, I dropped down to 1 pound a week. I’m not worried about this. Slow and steady wins the race. Besides, I’m already at the BMI I need to be at. (If you believe in BMI. I’m using it for health reasons. It tracks at an 80% rate with various diseases I’m trying to avoid.)

And here I am this afternoon, weighing 130.

 

Drain You

I’ve been listening to so much great music lately. This evening, I decided on this song for my power walk. It may just be one of the best songs ever made.

 

How We Treat Mental Illness

I read an article recently about the current method of treating mental illness, which was referred to as “the shotgun approach.” Basically, when you have a mental illness, they try different medications on you until they find one which works (hopefully). They do this even though the medications used to treat, say, bipolar or schizophrenia work in different ways.

In schizophrenia, at least, the current theory is that there may be different underlying causes for the same symptoms. So, the reason I have schizophrenia may be different than the reason someone else has schizophrenia. The underlying issues with the brain, or past trauma, or environmental factors, may all be different. That’s why Abilify may work for me, but not for someone else. And that’s the reason why other medications I have tried, which react in the brain differently than Abilify, have not worked for me.

So, people with schizophrenia may present with similar symptoms, such as hearing voices, paranoia, and so on, but the reason they have these symptoms may be completely different.

For me, it’s really hard to tell why I have schizophrenia, with the exception of looking at the drug Abilify and seeing how it works in the brain. Of course, there may be environmental factors at play with me that triggered things (it wasn’t easy being a teen mom, for example, and conservatives, who kept telling me how I was going to Hell or cutting funding for my high school, didn’t help), but there may just be something organically different in my brain. (Not structurally, though. I’ve had CAT scans.)

There are genetic and other tests they use for people who do not respond to medications which can give doctors more insight as to why someone has a certain disease, but these are not readily available. In my opinion, they should be. Too often, as in my case, several years are wasted trying different medications to no avail. Often, it takes years to find the right medicine. That’s wasted years for many people—when they could be productive years…if they had the right medication.

That was the point of the article: there must be some way to get people the correct treatment much sooner than what is currently happening. I know, in my case, it would have been helpful to have the right medication much sooner. I may have been able to keep working, or, at least, finish some projects I was working on. At any rate, I would have more sooner been able to enjoy a Spring day like today.

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Self-Care

Eating better and exercising has really made me feel better. I didn’t know just how bad I felt until I started feeling better. It’s not just getting healthier, though. I have struggled with a little depression over the past, say, year or so. Even people close to me haven’t been able to tell. But I know it’s true.

I go to the doctor again soon and will discuss it then, but I’ve had problems with things like self-care and getting out of bed. Over the past two weeks or so this has gotten so much better. I feel like a new woman.

One of the reasons my doctor and I decided for me to not work is because I have had serious problems with self-care (from schizophrenia) even when I’m not working. When I do work, I end up in the hospital. This has happened eight times—the amount of times I have been hospitalized—and she wants me really good and stable before I even think about working.

I’m doing really well on Abilify, but progress is slow. I’m just now at the point where I’m caring again about taking care of myself. I have been showering each day, brushing my teeth, eating right, exercising, getting out, etc. This is progress, but my doctor and I are taking it very slow.

I’m lucky to have so many great people in my life who understand mental illness. One of them suggested that I make a list of my daily cares and check them off each day so I do them and don’t forget. This has helped me.

It has also helped that I have been fortunate to have so many wonderful people in my life. I recently “came out” to everyone in my life–including people on Facebook, etc–about having schizophrenia. I just couldn’t bare having such a big secret. I was welcomed and accepted by all of them. I cannot say enough how helpful it is to have people in your life who are supportive and do not hold stigmas about mental illness.

Robert Brandom

I am still doing work for the journal I’ve mentioned. The other day, I worked on an essay by Robert Brandom. It was very interesting. I am lucky to have been able to work on papers of really great people.

New Health Gear

I’ve been reading a lot at PubMed recently, and had a chat with my doctor. My doctor suggested I take a multivitamin with vitamin D in it because, as I was told, we do not get vitamin D from the sun. They used to think that, but it was disproved. However, you need the sun in order to process vitamin D. So, I started taking a multivitamin.

Looking for a sugar free drink (and a sugar substitute free drink, which can be just as bad), I looked up the pros and cons of different drinks. I decided on green tea, which has become a staple for me.

I’ve cut a lot of the added sugar from my diet after finding out just how much sugar is in the average American diet. (Not good.) So, I bought myself some All Bran to eat for my breakfasts, which has less sugar than most cereals. (Check the ingredients to see where sugar is listed.)

I also decided to start taking a probiotic. This is for several reasons, but one of them is because there’s research that says the gut bacteria in people with schizophrenia is imbalanced. Not sure why that is, and antipsychotics can cause it, too, but one theory is that schizophrenia is an autoimmune disease.

I’m also joining the gym. I look forward to that. I’ve been in shape most of my life, but got out of shape–and in poorer health–over the past few years. Being on antipsychotics–and in and out of the hospital–will do that to a person. My goal is to get in better health. I’ve read, too, that diet and exercise can help schizophrenia like it does so many things.

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“My Rules” by Jennifer Lawson

I made a mixed media piece with some magazines and paint. It’s about me, and someone who wanted to change me. It’s also, if you think about it and look at it, about the costs associated with being a woman. Everything here, which is what someone wanted me to wear or have on, costs money. I don’t have much money, as readers know, but that’s not the point. Heels, makeup, hairdos, all cost a lot of money. And, when you think about it, is it really worth it? Are women not OK the way they are, without all these things?

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Reading

The other day I went to my favorite local independent bookstore and got a few books. I have never read In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, so I got that and another book. Don’t spoil it for me. I plan on sitting outside, enjoying the day and reading it with a nice glass of green tea.

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Enjoying Spring Weather

I have really been enjoying the Spring weather here in central Florida.

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What I’m Listening to

This is the song I’ve been listening to all day today.

 

Watching My Weight

After my physical that I wrote about, I decided to head off any unwanted conditions by changing a few things about my lifestyle. I’m aiming to lose a little bit of weight, not necessarily for vanity, but for my health. So I changed some of my eating habits. I cut my portion sizes by half, and added more fruits and vegetables to my diet. I have lost 8 pounds so far, and plan to lose ten more. It’s difficult. The first day, I felt like I was starving. But I’m determined. Like anyone, there’s a history of various health problems in my family. I don’t want to have to deal with those, many of which are preventable. So, I decided to make the change.

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Doctor Appointments

The last few days has been filled with doctor appointments.

Yesterday, I went to my Nurse Practitioner to see how I am doing, and to refill my medications. I think I am responding well to Abilify. I get an injection once a month. The nurse told me that the shot is more effective than the pill because it maintains a more even blood level throughout the month. My Nurse Practitioner and I decided it’s best for me not to work. Our goal is to keep me out of the hospital.

This morning, I went to have several tests done for a physical. I had a breathing test, chest x ray, EKG, urine test, and blood work. It was time for my yearly physical, so I did it.

Red Flowers

I thought I’d share a picture I took today of some red flowers.

 

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Gemini Springs

Today, I went with my daughter to Gemini Springs in Debary, Florida. Here is a photo from our trip.

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Mental Illness in the Media

I found this really good article about depictions of people with mental illness in the media. The media is not a very good place to find accurate depictions these days.

NAMIWalks

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.

“Bad Indians” by Ryan Red Corn

I have an indigenous daughter. She is Choctaw. This is a poem by a Native poet.

African Violets

I got a new digital camera, mostly because I enjoy taking photos and find it very therapeutic. This is the first picture I took with my new camera. It’s an African Violet.

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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.