Tag Archives: mental illness

little by little

i got promoted at my job not long ago.

cue applause and ‘congratulations!’ banner.

ok, it’s not as special as it seems. i’m still working as a mental health counselor and my job description has not changed a bit. the only difference now is more hours.

not as glamorous as the opening line suggests, eh?

more hours means more time spent with my clients and that’s a pretty awesome perk since they’re pretty awesome. they all make me laugh, think, feel and understand. it’s some of the best living i do. we get to live life together and experience the up’s and the down’s.

the up’s can be really good. there’s a treasure chest of reward helping people live better lives. i often wonder who is getting more from our interactions – them or me.

but the down’s can be bad. deep and dark at times. at times it’s hard to remind myself of the up’s when the down’s are pretty depressing. i don’t feel this way for long, as things change pretty rapidly.

frustration.

psychosis frustrates me. it gets under my skin more than i care to admit it. i’m supposed to be used to it’s ways by now, right? i’ve been working with dozens and dozens of people who dealt with psychosis. this is nothing new to me.

it frustrates me more today than it ever did before.

why?

i’m not sure. i’m writing right now to figure that out.

i search my brain’s data banks from my psychology studies in university hoping to find the answers i want. nothing. i comb online psych journals looking for a glimmer of hope.

still nothing.

i know the things people say when they are experiencing a psychotic episode isn’t really them. i know this. i know that the insults, threats and names that are spoken aren’t coming from their heart but from their delusions and disjointed thoughts. i know they don’t mean what they say.

i know all this and still it frustrates me.

there is no reasoning with psychosis.

maybe that’s my problem. maybe that’s what frustrates me so much. maybe my own understanding of mental health needs to change then.

i want to be able to compartmentalize everything in my life. there’s a sense of control in that. when everything fits nicely into it’s little box that feels comfortable.

control and comfort.

pride and selfishness?

i can’t compartmentalize mental health, especially not psychosis. that’s what probably bothers me so much. there’s no comfort and there is definitely no control over it. psychosis operates on it’s own terms and doesn’t care a rip about anything else. it doesn’t care about the mind it is corrupting and the negative feelings it is causing, both in the host and the surrounding people.

one of my client’s struggles with psychosis. i can seen the pain on their face as they struggle to understand and be understood in a confusing world full of delusion and debilitating paranoia. i see and feel the anger that is born from their cognitive difficulties to piece together the disjointed reality thrown at them.

even though they have many people around them on a day-to-day basis – family, friends, support workers – i can still see the loneliness on their face.

and it eats me up inside little by little..

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burgers to bunyan

burger
my bus was late as usual.  i regretted running the two and half blocks as i turned the corner to see no bus in sight.  it was good and well that i didn’t miss the bus but getting me to work late was not.  good thing drew, my coworker had things well under control at the group home.

‘sorry for being late,’ i explained as i walked through the door.  ‘i think my bus driver was on sunday afternoon driving mode.’

‘it’s all good.  jack and rebecca (not their real names) are out with family for dinner.  tony is still napping.’

tonight i’m on dinner duty since drew is taking tony through his pre-dinner routine.  homemade burgers and fries are on the menu.  this can either go really well or really, really bad.

pessimistic or just keenly aware of my cooking deficiencies?

lets just say that i don’t think the cooking channel is going to be calling asking me to show the world a thing or two anytime soon. unless it’s to show my famous french toast, and if that’s the case i’m saying ‘no!’

ain’t nobody getting that secret.  i’m taking it to the grave with me.

well, the burgers turn out pretty darn good, i must say.  when jack and rebecca get home they gobble it down and give me the thumbs up.  tony has some too, though a bit differently than the rest of us.

thirty years ago tony was a 35-year-old husband and father to a beautiful wife and daughter with another baby on the way.  goofing around with some buddies on a long weekend, tony accepted a dare to climb a telephone pole.  he hit the wires and fell onto his head.  they saved his life but he would never be the same man again.

after tony came out of a long coma, he had to learn how to walk and communicate again.  he had to have all his food blended up so he could eat.  he had to be helped with going to the bathroom and showering.  his wife couldn’t take care of two children and a husband who needed constant help learning to live with a different rhythm.  he was placed in a large group home before coming to our small options group home.

i take one of the cooked burger patties along with some cheese, fries and ketchup and place them in a food processor.  tony is going to have burgers and fries with us too, a la pureed.

he gives his sign of approval too – a crooked thumbs up and big smile.

maybe that call from the cooking channel will coming afterall.

drew takes rebecca out to grab a coffee while tony and i watch duck dynasty in the living room.  we both laugh and enjoy the silly antics of hillbillies blowing things up and shooting ducks.  if only life were that simple.

the big hockey game comes on.  tony loves hockey so we turn on the game in his room where he can relax and watch it.  equipped with a boost milkshake and a delicious pudding snack, tony watches and cheers as his team kicks butt.

tony wants to get up to go to the bathroom.  i was told to let him get himself up out of his chair.  the more he does it himself the stronger his legs will be.  the whole ‘if you don’t use it you lose it’ line of thinking.  it makes sense, only problem is that he doesn’t want to get himself up at times and holds his hand out for help.

‘help up?’  he asks, his words slurred together.

i’ll admit i’m a sucker most of the time.  he probably knows it by now and that’s why he wears that huge grin as he asks me.  maybe he sees ‘sucker’ tattooed on my forehead.

drew leaves early to get to the other group home he works at.  jack and tony are in bed early while rebecca and i watch tv in the living room.  rebecca is a 65 yr old woman with schizophrenia who loves doing crafts, drinking coffee and watching gilmore girls.

apparently i love watching gilmore girls now too.  go figure.

rebecca tells me about the new shoes she got and how much walking she is going to do in them.  two hours a day.  she goes and gets them to show me.  she puts them on and show how she will walk in them.  good form.  i get another compliment on the burgers i made for dinner.

i’m going to milk this accomplishment for a while longer.

11pm comes quickly and my replacement arrives ready to take on the overnight shift.  i say goodnight and run to catch my bus home.  i walk through my front door, drop my keys on the small, white ledge i’ve haphazardly screwed to my old plaster wall, kick my shoes on to the mat in my hallway, and collapse onto my chair in the living room.

i’m tired but happy.

an old quote by john bunyan runs through my mind.

‘you have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.’

i’m not sure i necessarily agree with bunyan on this but i’m willing to accept it for tonight.

i lived today 🙂

cool.

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trying to understand

it hurt my heart a great deal when i heard the details of the latest school shooting.  to think about such evil being committed against innocent, young lives makes me scared of a world my younger siblings, cousins, nieces, and nephews will grow up in.  i want a safe society for them to live in, not one in which there are horrendous acts like this one committed.

i pray and will continue to pray for the families and all those involved.  may healing come upon your homes.

i have a problem with the way the conversations have been phrased after this latest mass shooting in the united states.  i suppose the media is to blame for some of this but i think theres a collective responsibility as well.  with all respect to the victims, both those who lost their lives and the ones left behind, i think theres something a bit off-putting about this story and its not for all the immediately apparent reasons.

is gun reform the biggest issue here, as the media claims it is?

quick fact: it is easier for americans to access guns than mental health services.

it bothers me that the conversation is being had almost exclusively around gun laws and no one seems to be saying much about mental illness.  yes, guns were used to take innocent lives.  yes, if there had been better safeguards in place then this might not have happened.  yes, we need to look at gun laws and reform the necessary parts to protect all of us, but it was a broken human being who used those guns to kill.

broken mentally.

that this young man had a large problem with his mind is so apparent and obvious that it feels redundant to say anything about it, and yet its being placed in a secondary column of interest and concern.

that scares me.

it scares me that our society can be so blind and dumb towards the ugly reality of mental illness all around us.  we are a collective of ostriches hiding our heads in the comforting sand, all the while the proverbial bombs tick down above the surface.

if this isnt a deafening wake up call to us what will it take?

7.1 percent of the american populace accessed mental health services in 2012.  its estimated though that 26.2 percent of americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.  this number is most definitely higher when considering stigmatization of mental disorders and the lack of appropriate mental health services.  nearly 20 percent cant (too expensive) or wont (stigma) access mental health services.  here in halifax, nova scotia, less than 4% of the health budget is directed towards mental health.

what does that tell us about mental health? does it tell us that it is not a problem?

tell that to most of the people i work with on the streets.  of the hundreds of people ive met and/or worked with at street level, maybe a couple of them didnt deal with mental illness.

or try telling that to the almost 1 in 10 of canadians who deal with major depression.

lets ask the canadian mental health association.  heres a few things from their website:

Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
20% (1 in 5) of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

im not going to bother mentioning the percentage of mentally ill people occupying our prisons.  a quick google search will give you the staggering stats.

so it IS a big problem.. and its getting worse.

we cant expect things to get better when we keep ignoring the obvious warning signs and refuse to tackle the problem head on.  but with our heads firmly planted in the sand, the likely hood that things are going to get (much) worse before they get better is an unsettling reality.

 

the other thing that bothers me about this is the horrible contrast it shows between western people and other people of our world.

why is that the children in gaza dont get the tears of the world for the latest bombings in palestine?

why dont these children, who live on the wrong side of an apartheid state, gain even a fraction of the tears and prayers the western children get?  i dont want to get weighed down in quantifying senseless deaths against other senseless deaths but there seems to be a particular skew here.

what about the children who have died in pakistan and yemen by american drone attacks?

why dont these children (an estimated 178 of them) get us teary-eyed and mad at their murderers?  why dont we send each other mass facebook prayer letters and doctored pictures with kind and inspiring words for these children?

a car bomb goes off in damascus and 50 people are killed, some of which are innocent children.  the scene is gruesome.  more innocent lives lost to senseless violence.

do we blame the media for this?  surely, they must be most responsible because of their biased opinions, right?  we dont get to decide what news we consume, do we?

do we?

i realize at this point that this post probably wont get me too many fans.  ranting about mental illness is one thing but calling into question our collective moral integrity might be cutting a little too close to some people’s central nerve.

see, it wasnt just gun reform we need, nor mental health funding, nor learning to care more about other people you dont know.  we need a gut check and ask ourselves harder questions.

are all the people of our world weighed on the same scale?

if so, why doesnt it seem like that?  whether its mentally illness or foreign people dying/being killed, its the same story.

can we afford to lie to ourselves any longer?

no, they are not being valued/weighed the same.  some children/women/men are less valuable than others.  its plain as day, isnt it?!  our news media, facebooks, twitters, chats over coffee, supper talks with the family, etc, etc, ad nauseam(!) tell us it is.

there are ‘us’ and there are ‘them’.

(pause)

whats happening to us?!  or, maybe its more apt to ask, what has happened to us?!

(long pause)

are we losing our humanity?

(another long pause)

(still pausing)

or are we just sick and need help?
maybe we need healing from our mental, emotional and spiritual wounds, and help understanding who we really are.

i hope help and healing come soon, because our world really needs it right now.

//end of long rant

RIP all  the children of the world who have died due to war, starvation, poverty, disease and everything else that steals a life too soon.  may your souls rest well in His kingdom.

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tragedy in kansas

for some of us its just another sunday.  for those in kansas city, this sunday will be much different than last sunday and all the preceding sunday’s leading up to today.  tragedy has a way of doing that.

a couple of days ago, a young professional football player who plays for the kansas city chiefs took a gun and shot his girlfriend, the mother of his newborn baby, multiple times dead.  he then went to the practice facility where he works to thank his coach and general manager for all that they had done for him.  then he turned the gun on himself and took his own life.

we hear about these situations in the news often enough that we become numb to them.  people murder other people.  its a sad reality that we a forced to deal with.  people also take their own lives, leaving behind people who cared for and loved them.

i came across this story because im a sports fan and because im a sports fan i tend to visit sports websites to get my ‘fix’.  what was first reported as a suicide by a football player soon became a story about a football player who committed murder-suicide.

what happened inside that young man’s head?

i read a few of the comments tagged along at the end of one of the articles.  most people were very sympathetic towards the situation, offering their rip’s and condolences.  some people werent as kind and offered their distaste and judgment towards the young man.  i read some very harsh and hurtful things that i hope his family or friends didnt come across.

it amazes me the senselessness that comes out of some peoples mouths and, in this case, fingers at times.

was this simply a case of domestic violence taken to the extreme?  maybe, but maybe not.

football is a violent sport that involves men crashing into each other with tremendous impact, often times injuring players.  many times those injuries cant be seen on an x-ray or be helped with some physiotherapy.  head injuries are very common in a game where men bash their helmets against another man’s.  with enough force, a person’s brain can shake inside their skull and cause damage.  we call this a concussion.  concussions have been shown to contribute to depression, anxiety, mood swings, lack of ability to control stress, loss of social judgment and aggression.
could this young man have been dealing with some mental illness due to head trauma that had flown under the radar?

in a society that stigmatizes people who deal with mental illness, its more common for people to live with unaddressed and undiagnosed mental health issues/illnesses then seek help.  people who wouldnt think of saying a racial or ethnic slur glibly talk about nut cakes, lunatics and crazies.  its no wonder more people dont seek help.

or maybe the young football player just snapped.

in professional football, as in most professional sports, players are more commodities than human beings.  weight, strength, height, 40 time, jersey number, etc.  im just as guilty of it at times, getting frustrated when one of my favorite players has an off-shooting night.  they arent simply numbers on a roster or spreadsheet.  they are people with emotions, sensitivities, dreams, families and lives away from the sports field.  when we dehumanize human beings, should we be shocked when they dont always act human?

whether it was mental illness, a sudden aggressive, irrational mood or something else we are unaware of, it saddens me more than i can articulate in words.  but why?  i didnt know know him, his victim or anyone related or close to them.  i cant explain the why, i simply am.

im learning as i get older i cant nor do i feel the need to explain everything.  some things just are.

rip jb and kp

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out of the cold..

 

i cant seem to find the words lately to write. i know theyre there but getting them down on to some paper or a screen seems like a battle. for someone who needs to write (it may be the only medication available for my type of insanity) this is a rather unfortunate predicament. even these words seem forced and unnatural. i can only assume my heart and mind have heavier things weighing on them than my need to write. or maybe my insanity just needs more attention.

contrary to what i might be telling myself, working 3 jobs may be catching up with me. ive gotten ‘ you look tired’ more lately than i care to admit. i like to just think it has to do with being awake when its dark and sleeping through the sun. am i just lying to myself? probably. dad told me hes going to send me something for my sleep apnea so im praying that fixes my faded exterior a bit. if not, maybe i need to reorganize.

last night was a tough wrap up to 3 shift stretch of graveyards at the out of the cold shelter. the shelter is an emergency space for people unable to access other housing or shelter space in the city. because of limited space and liability issues, we’re only able to accommodate 15 people a night, even though we have space for many more. last night i had to deny 5 men who were trying to escape the rapidly dropping temperature, but not before filling their pockets full of food, their bags full of blankets and warm clothes, and tim hortons cards so they could sit somewhere warm for a while. to say there arent enough beds in this city for the homeless is an understatement. a gross understatement. im not sure what we’re going to do when january comes and the real cold temperatures hit. when do peoples lives become more important than liabilities?

jason came by a few times trying to access the shelter. him and i have been hanging out a lot lately while im at work. the cocktail of medication drugs hes prescribed for his schizophrenia doesnt allow him to sleep very long, or so he tells me. i like to think its because i make a mean cup of coffee. either way, jason and i have become fast friends. he tells me everything i ever wanted to know about music (and then some!) and i keep the coffee flowing. its a good relationship. when he tried to access the third time, he looked tired, cold and hungry. i parked him in one of the beat up old sofa chairs for a minute while i grabbed some food and coffee to warm him back up. he was snoring by the time i came back. i asked my volunteer staff, john, if he had a problem with ‘bending’ some rules. he didnt and neither did i. jason stayed.

daryl, who suffers from a similar metal illness, woke up looking for some coffee and conversation. probably the smartest intellect ive met on the streets and quite possibly ever.  no exaggeration!  his ideas on life and questions concerning everything else associated with it made me think harder than i cared to at 5 in the morning but it was refreshing nonetheless. im still trying to wrap my mind around the zero-gravity black hole theory he was trying to explain to me. hopefully ill have an answer for him when we talk next.

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