schizophrenia recovery

Living With Psychosis and How Therapy Can Help

Photo by: Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

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 viking3082000@yahoo.com

Author Interview With University of Alberta Hospital Doctors (Grand Rounds) Regarding Mental Health

Hello good readers. I will most likely make a full, regular blog tomorrow evening, I just wanted to give you all a chance to have a look at a video made of an interview I was in on the 6th of April, 2022. Click the link here: https://youtu.be/J9ocWcunFg0 and I hope you enjoy, even if you just want to see how silly my voice sounds and what my un-tanned, bald talking head looks like. 🙂

The Importance Of Relaxation and Sleep When You Have a Chronic Mental Illness Such As Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder

I thought today’s photo might be relevant, especially since Spring and of course Summer are coming and one of the best ways to feel relaxed is to get out and enjoy some outdoor sports. A psychologist once told me that she was very glad I worked out because our physical selves are such an important part of who we are. When you get regular exercise, including kayaking, you look better, feel better, and are able to deal with stress better. Not to mention that exercise is one of the best insurance policies against getting lazy.

Before I get too much further into today’s blog, I wanted to mention once again (and if you are reading this from my website you will be able to see above this) that I am having a National Public Reading next Wednesday. This is your time to interact with me one on one, listen to stories from my book “Through the Withering Storm” and ask questions, and even order signed books if you like.

Yesterday, I was feeling stressed and had a lot on my mind. One of the things a person can do that is supposed to help with stress is to take B-vitamins. These are supposed to replace what you lose in your body when you are under stress. I recall when I was on just the odd vitamin here and there that taking a B-vitamin and having a nap was a great way to deal with things. Now, I actually take more vitamins than I take medications and it is hard to tell what the B-vitamins are doing. I am considering not taking the B-vitamins for a few weeks to see how I feel.

So, about yesterday–I have been so busy lately, as some of you may know by not getting blogs from me as much as usual. So I poured a hot bath–a hot, hot bath. It was so hot I stepped in and thought I was going to have to cool it down before I sat down in it. I didn’t, and I added in a few handfuls of Epsom salts. These are amazing, my former family doctor recommended them once for haemorrhoids and it has worked better than any other remedy I have used (don’t laugh, those things hurt–you get them from sitting on cold benches in the winter or when you have a lot of diarrhea sometimes. My medications used to give me the diarrhea which I changed by adding more fibre and cheese to my diet). One of the other reasons I wanted to put Epsom salts in my bath, aside from knowing that it was a great help for sore muscles, was that relaxation tanks that people pay big bucks to float in while in darkness, have a ton of the same salts in them.

So anyhow, I had a nice long bath, cleaned myself and then rinsed out the tub and I was still hot and sweaty when I got dressed. I decided to just lay down and the amount of relaxation I experienced was intense. After laying there for just a few minutes, I drifted off into the most relaxing sleep I have ever had and an hour went by with sweet dreams. If I didn’t have dry skin I would take a hot bath like that every night before bed. It works better than any of the pills I take to help me sleep.

One of the problems I have is possibly due to the bipolar disorder part of my schizoaffective disorder illness. I wake up and I have a very hard time not falling back asleep, always have experienced this. It has become an issue in my adulthood, especially back when I used to smoke. I have set more than one mattress on fire waking up and lighting up a cigarette and then falling back asleep. So I strongly urge you if you smoke, not to smoke in bed. I would also really like it if you could somehow quit, and perhaps I should dedicate an upcoming blog to how I was able to quit after an intense 18-year habit. So anyways, now that I don’t smoke, my big problem waking up is that I will make a coffee or tea and bring it back to bed with me and then fall asleep before I can drink it, and when I wake up and am able to drink it, it is sitting at my bedside, cold as anything.

The flip side of it is that by the time the evening comes around, I find it very hard to relax enough to go to sleep. I have tried meditation, self-hypnosis, medication, and so many things. What I have learned is that it is very important to listen to your body’s subtle rhythms. Watch out for any caffeine intake after say 5:30pm. Make sure you have gotten plenty of fresh air and exercise each day. Make sure you always have clean sheets, and wear whatever you consider to be pyjamas. I used to like wearing pyjamas until I found a very comfortable pair of sweat pants/track pants that I use along with a t-shirt. Another thing is that you should keep your bed only for sleeping and sex. For some reason when you bring your tablet or laptop or book to bed and read or work or do anything like that, you forget how to switch off your brain. I have also learned that screen time should be reduced a few hours before bed, not always possible when you are a writer.

There is so much more to relaxation that I want to cover. One thing I think I should make sure and mention is that I don’t think it is good to rely on medications like Ativan to help you relax. When I took it, I found myself getting addicted to it and it left me too groggy. I would often take it and then have a long nap. Naps are great, they feel wonderful, but they should be kept to a bare minimum. The more of a nap you have during the day, the harder it will be to sleep at night.

Well, dear readers, I will leave things off at that. Please feel free to leave a comment, I always love to hear from you folks. If anyone has downloaded and read my book “Alert and Oriented x3” I would really like if you could put a review on Amazon.com for me. Looking forward to meeting some of you in my upcoming reading, please do take care and remember all of you that you are loved.

My Best Explanation Of Psychosis Caused By Bipolar and Schizophrenia

Good day dear readers! If you would like to contact me, feel free. My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

I don’t know exactly why, but when I think of mental illness, pictures like the above one often come to mind. Sometimes I really envy birds, I have spent a lot of time watching them. As a boy, I don’t know if I was that obsessed with birds, but I certainly loved flying and I started from a young age. I was 12 when I first sat in the cockpit of a glider and I later went on to attend commercial pilot school for a while. It just seems sometimes that birds are so free and happy. They just have relatively simple brains and they constantly display incredible amounts of skill and grace as they cleave the air.

As far as psychosis goes, from what I am understanding, it most often comes on gradually. It starts in something called the prodromal phase where a milder mental illness exists and develops into psychosis. For me, it was both anxiety and depression. Some of this could have had to do with the abuse I was getting at home and at school, but my mom did suffer from severe depression, to the point of needing shock treatments. One of the biggest parts of the early phases of my mental illness was a feeling of not being worthy of happiness added to a severe case of anxiety that made it impossible for me to look people in the eye or talk to anyone without blushing. One of the worst parts of this was that I was very slow to learn how to relate to the opposite sex and never even had a girlfriend until I was 20 something.

At a certain point in my life, I think I was starting to get a handle on the anxiety, and I hadn’t had any severe depression for a while. I didn’t notice it, but I was starting to show signs of both bipolar and schizophrenia. Later as a formal patient in a psychiatric hospital, I recall two very esteemed doctors arguing as to whether I had bipolar or schizophrenia. Funny enough, I had both.

What having those two illnesses meant early on was that I had extreme highs and lows and later developed psychosis, which I will explain in a moment. As far as my bipolar went though, I have a recollection of being able to induce a manic or high phase of my illness by drinking alcohol. I was invited to one party at a friend’s house once and was laughing a little too loud, making a few too many jokes and displaying too much energy for anyone’s liking. One of the things I recall about the times when I didn’t have any friends and thus didn’t do any drinking, was that I thought drinking was the only true joy in my life. It was also a social lubricant and if I had a few drinks, I was much more likely to approach a woman to talk or ask her to dance or even start necking with her.

One of the things about Air Cadets was that, possibly because of what the real military was like, there was a huge drinking culture. I recall having a phase of social development where I went from wallflower to life of the party in a few short months, then after I quit cadets losing all of my chances to interact with and relate to women.

To go past this for a little while, I should talk about my psychosis. It is a funny thing to have and a difficult thing to explain. Basically, psychosis is when a person becomes out of touch with reality. In my own case, and I am sure in many from experience, psychosis starts out with delusions. These are thoughts, ideas and beliefs that kind of appear seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes they can take the form of a running commentary of what the person is doing. My false thoughts didn’t appear to be someone talking to me, everything was from inside my head. The next aspect of psychosis is hallucinations. These are sensory inputs (touch, taste, smell, hearing–they can come in the form of any of the five senses) that are false. Often in my case, my hallucinations backed up what my delusions were telling me. I remember spending a great deal of time once when I was in the psych hospital sitting and listening to the air conditioner. It made a sound like a drum roll and inside my head a dialogue was telling me that I was about to be awarded a medal for bravery, all I had to do was walk out of the TV room and claim it. Sometimes this would go on for hours, I would even sometimes go and look if anything was there.

Another time, I was on the psych ward and experiencing false ideas and sensory input and a group of student nurses came onto the ward. One of them kept telling me, “Your Limo is outside.” I am pretty sure she really said this, not because I really had a Limo, but because she understood a lot about psychosis and wanted to see how much she could mess with me. I found it actually very common to experience this sort of cruelty from staff members.

So we have delusions and hallucinations. The next part is a feeling of paranoia. Certainly not everyone who has schizophrenia experiences all of these or even has all the same symptoms. Even when I was taking my medication though, I sometimes felt like others wanted to harm me. This made it very hard to attend school, go to parties, even have a job or a social life.

The next part of psychosis (and I should mention there are a lot of illnesses that can possibly include psychosis, though schizophrenia with 1 in 100 people having it is one of the more common ones) is having a general susceptibility to the false ideas you are receiving. One of the interesting things about symptoms like this is the fact that some ideas that people with schizophrenia get are shared with a great deal of other people with schizophrenia. One is a spy agency planting a computer in your brain to track you and spy on you. Some people with schizophrenia will walk around with tin foil on their heads in public so they don’t transmit radio waves. What I remember is experiencing those false ideas and thoughts, and having hallucinations and tendency to believe them and thinking the most preposterous things. I desperately wanted to make sense of why the CIA wanted me dead and that a super model wanted me to steal a car I saw that supposedly had a million dollars in the trunk (thankfully I didn’t do any of the more extreme things) I made a lot of logical conclusions and reasoned things out and quite often the only explanations that made sense were ideas like aliens were communicating with me or such.

Psychosis sucks. It hurts those who experience it and it puts their family and friends over the brink of never wanting to talk to the sick person again, but it shouldn’t. It isn’t a choice people make, and the goal should be to get the person treatment, not to just get rid of them. When I look back at times when I had psychosis, I am amazed that my doctors were able to bring me back from the brink. I don’t necessarily like all the things I went through in the hospital, but it may have been the only place I could get the help I needed. I will never forget spending five months on the locked ward being thrown into solitary time and time again, weeks, months on end. I honestly feel it exacerbated my psychological health problems, which I believe to be PTSD. But now, 20 years later, my life is on track again. One of the worst things about mental illness is that not a lot of people know enough to help someone they know who is going through depression or bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Seriously. Things. Need. To. Change.

What Will It Be Like if I Have Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder For the Rest of My Life?

As I look out at a city full of new things: new cars, new transport trucks, shiny new buildings reaching for the heavens, sometimes I wonder what all this will be like in 100 years. Surprisingly, a lot of it depends on one simple thing, the price and value of oil. If no drastic new technologies take over (even electric cars are powered by energy made from burning coal) there will be thick, greasy smog over my beloved Edmonton. But then if oil takes a downturn and mankind gets over its addiction addiction to fossil fuels, the city would likely be a much poorer one, many of the buildings from this picture would be old, worn, dilapidated. Without oil, the Alberta economy would be in trouble. I feel bad about it, but sometimes when I wonder about the future, I don’t let it bother me or take too much of my time because I am fairly certain I won’t be alive in 100 years, and I don’t have any children. This philosophy can easily be related to mental illness.

Where will my mental health be 20 years from now then? Sometimes I don’t think I want to live even 20 more years, because in that time I may be put on another medication, say one for my heart or as a blood thinner that makes it impossible for my mental health medication to work and I really don’t want to have to go to a hospital, or a care home for the mentally ill.

One thing I can say about the future is that it promises a lot of things, even to those who take psychiatric medications. 32 years ago, when I was first locked in a psychiatric ward and forced to take medications, the state of medication and the conditions in psychiatric hospitals was much worse than it is now. I recall frequent violent acts committed against me while I was in the secure ward and there was no redress, no one to tell that you just had a former wrestler slam your head into a concrete floor. That is changing, at least in this part of the world. I can also say that medications have improved.

As all things have their exceptions, I should mention that two years ago I was put on a medication that was supposed to work better for me and improve my mental health and it actually made me very ill, experiencing psychosis. For a while I was determined that I had the right to sue, but I was later told that it is very difficult to sue a doctor or a hospital in Canada. And suing the pharmaceutical company would have been an exercise in futility. So what I did was write a book about it, which I titled, “Alert and Oriented x3” I started the book out with statements from family members and a close friend, then put in a glossary of psychiatric terms, essays, poetry I wrote in and out of the hospital, commentaries on my work as it appears, and even my actual clinical notes from my doctors and nurses. Anyone reading this can get a free copy by clicking on the photo to the right of this blog (the Tower Bridge photo) which will take you to the page where you can download and share a free PDF copy. Anyone who wants it in paperback can get it from me or from http://www.amazon.ca The big difference if you get it from me will be that you are supporting my efforts to reduce stigma and increase awareness surrounding mental illness.

Sorry, I have gone way off track. What I wanted to write about was ageing and mental illness. Some people say that those who have schizophrenia age well, and I have to say that at 50, I don’t look much different than I did at 35. But it has been a difficult past few years and it is starting to show. I was told that memory loss could be a side effect of taking sleeping pills, and that is the one thing that bothers me the most. The amazing thing though is that a person’s mind and body are so adaptable. I should mention here that I have adjusted to many of the side effects of the medications I take and it has allowed me to live a nearly normal life. Even my memory loss is becoming less of a problem as I continue to ‘work out’ my brain with things like Sudoko puzzles and memorizing my favourite poems. I also have been using lists and my calendar a lot so I don’t forget about appointments and such.

Some people are of the belief that mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar will peter out as they get older, but sadly from my research it doesn’t seem this is the case. What does seem to be the case is that people with these illnesses take poor care of themselves, and by the time they reach old age, there is so much wrong with them that mental health is the least of their worries. Personally I don’t want this to happen. I keep myself fit, mostly with walking and swimming, keep my brain active and make regular visits to an MD. One of the funny truths of the situation I refer to is that as we age, we are more likely to experience poor health if we aren’t married. There is so much to be said for companionship and love, and sharing your life with someone. I am not married, but I have female friends in my life who do care, and one of them, who was my first ever girlfriend some 30 years ago is still one of my best friends.

Well, I hope some of this rambling helps someone out there. For those of you who were awesome enough to follow my blog, expect more entries soon. I have decided that blogging is one of the few joys I have in my life that has the potential to help others. So write, comment, follow. I would love to hear feedback about my book. Connect with me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com