Hello Good Readers. Well, as an update my Dad seems to be improving a little. He isn’t completely clouded in confusion though it seemed that for a little while he thought he was in Denmark when I visited him today. What is really hard is him asking about his brothers and sisters, who have all passed on. It must be horrible to be the last person in your family alive.
I received a message today from a woman who wanted to help a close friend of hers get through the experience of having a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder. It was hard to know what to say except that what she is doing is incredibly admirable. When I got severely ill 20 years ago, I did have some support but what help I got was tainted by the fact that I left an odd answering machine message for this person. He saved the recording and replayed it for friends and his wife and had a good laugh about how crazy I was.
I wish I could give a better description about what it is like to have a mental illness. Sometimes it seems like it is some awful cancer growing inside of you that surfaces in your brain and just takes over. One thing that is a little funny about having mental health problems is that often a stomach problem comes along with it. Just about every time I have become severely ill I have had serious stomach pain. I don’t know if this is true or not, but it seems interesting that I once read your stomach has a ‘brain’ of its own. All your brain really is, is a bundle of billions and billions of nerves. Also, people talk a lot about having a ‘gut instinct.’
Of course a big part of having a mental illness and being in the thick of things has to do with your thoughts. What I recall happening was I would be walking somewhere, be it down a school hallway or down a mall and I would think of commentary (things people around me were saying or even thinking) and it would have the same force as if the person were talking into an intercom and giving me up to the minute statements about what was happening around me. Of course, part of this psychosis comes with the irrational fear known as paranoia. So many of the things you imagine (and they are 100% realistic) seem to be threatening. For example, I may walk down a mall and see a young woman on a phone. I would imagine she is calling a girl I liked, telling her I was there so she could come and watch me over the closed circuit TV in the mall. Then I would pass another place and there would be a big, scary looking guy there and I would imagine he was her boyfriend and that not only did he hate me, but he was on steroids and had the ability to pound me into dust.
I will never forget being in a mall called Westmount one time. Funny enough, it was on a day I had escaped from the hospital. It is funny to think of ‘escaping’ because all I really did was get on a bus and go to see a movie. I went into a department store and there was a young woman who was working there who I knew from before. For whatever reason, whether she was saying it as a joke or as a test to see how crazy I was, or if she didn’t even say it at all, she said to me, “Hi Leif. I heard you own this mall.” this false idea stuck in the back of my head for a while. I remember trying to lie to make up a believable story as to why I owned the mall when my sister confronted me with the false fact. I said that when my friend and his mom passed away, they left me their house and someone invested it and was able to purchase the mall on my behalf. I knew I was lying, but the false reality was so vivid in my mind.
This is something important to note. The reason it is so important is because I often hear that people with mental illnesses are more likely to be victims of violence than become violent themselves. I can recall three times when I honestly believed (though I was delusional) that I had a significant sum of money. One time was in the hospital 20 years ago when a fellow patient started a fist fight with me because I told him I had the money to buy a house (he was supposedly a realtor). The second time I went to a local bar and quite plainly asked the head bouncer why someone had told me I owned the place. I wasn’t treated with violence, but when I went there later I narrowly escaped it from another person who worked there. It is scary now to look back at the past and think of myself holding on to delusional ideas while I wasn’t even in the hospital. This is another key part of having a mental illness. No matter how ill a person with psychosis may get, they are often unaware that they are ill.
Well Dear Readers, it has been a long and taxing day. I have plans for tomorrow that include getting up early and staying up late. Today I had a session of therapy, which I really have to say is going wonderfully. I have this amazing therapist who is really kind and empathetic and she is teaching me some strategies to, among other things, re-focus my thoughts when I find myself thinking of the past too much and beating myself up needlessly over it. What I learned today was something called 5-4-3-2-1. Basically, I notice 5 things around me and look at them like I haven’t seen them before, then listen for 5 sounds, then become aware of 5 things touching my skin. You work your way down to seeing 1 thing, hearing 1 thing and feeling 1 thing and eventually you start to train your mind to not focus on negative thoughts. She said that the mind can’t think of more than one thing at a time. Thanks for reading. If you would like to support my efforts, I encourage you to buy one of my books from amazon, there are inexpensive options in eBooks and reasonable options in paperback. Also, if you would like to ask me about something I can cover in these blogs or just say hi, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org