surviving schizophrenia

At about the age of 13 I found out my mother’s diagnosis, it was Schizophrenia. I was reading through some court papers, that I wasn’t supposed to have  been reading, and saw it: “…… has been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia”. I can’t recall exactly how I felt reading it, but I do know I was a bit relived.  For the past 5-6 years I knew my mom wasn’t OK, but I didn’t know what was wrong with her.  I didn’t know why she always heard voices, I didn’t know why she would get so angry when we told her we didn’t see the things that she saw.  I didn’t know why my mother didn’t hug us or tell us that she loved us.  I didn’t understand why she thought the breakfast we made for her on mother’s day, had poison or spit in it.

No one talked to us about why my mom was in and out of the hospital, every couple of years. No one in my family told me my mother had Schizophrenia, I read it in court papers.  Whenever I had a chance , I would try to find out more information about the illness, but at my age I didn’t understand what I read, so I just stopped.  I just accepted that is what my mother had, and to me, she was uncaring, unstable, irresponsible, and angry. 

Despite my feelings, I was always grateful for the values she instilled in us at a young age.  During the years, when her recovery periods were short, we were able to still take care of ourselves.  We knew how to get ourselves off to school, cook for ourselves and do our school work to maintain good grades.  I credit that not only to my mother, but also to my grandparents, and the grace of God.  It would be almost two decades before I would be able to separate the symptoms of the  illness from my mom.  She was not the illness.  She was just the opposite.  During her periods of her recovery, she was a different woman, and I had to learn to remember the confident, hard-working, big-hearted, loving, smart, and somewhat stubborn woman she will always be. Read More


A GIRL with….

OCD

T.V. shows often imitate real life.  It isn’t often that real mental health issues are worked into a storyline.  However, Lena Dunham, creator, writer and star of the HBO series GIRLS, made OCD a part of Hannah’s (Lena’s character on the HBO series) story.  The revelation that Hannah had been diagnosed with OCD at a young age, in my opinion, was a celebratory moment.   Hannah is a character that many fans love, and she has had moments that many of us can relate to. By adding a mental illness to Hannah’s story, it gave a different reality to the illness; a reality that says OCD can affect your co-worker, your child, your best friend.

Lena speaks openly about living with OCD since she was a young child. Take a minute to review what she says in interviews with NBC News, US Magazine and NY Daily:

http://www.nbcnews.com/health/mental-health/why-lena-dunham-cant-just-talk-her-way-out-ocd-n197061

http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/lena-dunham-diagnosed-with-ocd-at-age-9-meditates-to-stay-calm-2013910

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/gossip/lena-dunham-reveals-facing-ocd-excerpt-memoir-article-1.1918720

She also discusses it in her new book Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’e “Learned”.  The book has gotten great reviews and is said to be “…Thoughtful, hilarious, and exquisitely-written, Dunham’s memoir is like reading your quirky big sister’s diary.” –Brittany Pirozzolo (Amazon.com)

Information on OCD from The National Institute of Mental Health (link below)

Obsessions: Unwanted thoughts, ideas  or images that won’t go away.

Compulsions: Behaviors you feel you must carry out repeatedly, sometimes for hours.

A person with OCD will feel an overwhelming urge to repeat certain rituals (compulsions) to try and control their thoughts.

It is possible for OCD symptoms to show at any age, however most often they begin between the ages of 10 to 12 OR between the ages of 18 to 23; there have been symptoms in children as young as 4 years old.

OCD is believed to be linked to the parts of the brain that control fear and anxiety; stress and environmental factors may play a role also. 

Approx. 2.2 million American adults are affected by OCD, and men and women seem to be affected equally.

Common Obsessions

Frequent thoughts  of violence or harming a loved one

(It is my understanding that while they have thoughts or images of harming a loved one, THERE IS NO DESIRE TO CARRYOUT THE ACT!  In fact these thoughts and images frighten the individual.  They don’t know why they are having these thoughts, when they don’t want to harm anyone, and this usually leads them to a compulsion such as counting or repeating phrases.)

Constantly thinking about performing sex acts the person dislikes OR Constantly having thoughts prohibited by religious beliefs

(Because the thoughts and ideas they are having are things they do not like or go against what they know to be correct they are often distressed and have high levels of anxiety bc they don’t know why they are having the  thoughts and images)

Germs and Dirt, Intruders, & Safety

These may seem like normal things to be concerned about, and they are, but the frequency that OCD suffers thing about these things can be disruptive to their daily lives.  Not only do they have the thoughts to deal with , but the compulsive behavior that comes along with it. For someone that has an obsession with safety may check, double and triple check the iron is off before they leave for work.  Then they lock the door, but unlock it to go back in an check the iron.  Get to the car, but the thought that the iron may still be on is in their head-even though they will admit they checked several times they drive away without having checked one more time.  There is still a sting chance they will turn back around once on the road, to check the iron again. 

Get more information here: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/index.shtml

Also check out the International OCD Foundation (http://iocdf.org/) for more information, to find out how you can get help, and how you can get involved.


MIAW 2014~Mental Illness vs Mental Health

SATS-Mi v Mh 2

In 1990, the United States Congress designated the first full week of October as “Mental Illness Awareness Week”!

Since 1990??  Over 20 years ago?? Unless you are looking for mental illness or mental health information specifically, or you are in the mental health field, you may have never heard of it.

The goal of Speak Away the Stigma is to not only to encourage those who have been affected by a mental illness to speak openly about it, but it is to also bring awareness on the various mental illnesses and the importance of taking care of your mental health.  One question I had when I first began reading more about mental illness was “What is the difference between ‘Mental Illness’ and ‘Mental Health’?”  When you search one, you see results on both.  I have also been asked by a few people  about the difference, and this was my answer (which I always preface with I am not doctor, nor am I mental health professional; this is just the way I look at it): Mental health is about having a healthy mind, just like how physical health is about having a healthy body.  With all of the things your body goes through, it requires some maintenance to keep it healthy; your mind is no different.  Traumatic events, sudden changes, death, LIFE IN GENERAL, happens and these things may affect your mind, and some “mental maintenance” may be necessary.

Mental Illness can be the result of not taking the time for “mental maintenance”, there could be a genetic predisposition, or it could be a combination of the two. (Again I am not a medical or mental health professional, this is information I have read and discussed with mental health professionals over years)  For example, the chances of having Hypertension, Diabetes, and Heart Disease can be increased a result of not taking care of yourself physically,  a genetic predisposition or a combination of the two. The chances of being diagnosed with Schizophrenia, Depression, and Bipolar can be increased by certain factors as well.  Many of us know if Cancer or Heart Disease runs in our family, but do you know if ADHD or Autism runs in your family?  Take some time to speak about your family’s mental health history, was anyone affected by mental illness?

Take care of your mind.  Take care of your body.  Take care of one other.