Happy New Year!

Hello! LaVancia here…and I have some exciting news. A “first” for the first I could say: I was invited to share my story on another’s blog! And it got posted today, January 1. So go on over a take a peak for it contains a bit more depth into how far gone I really was when I became psychotic…Here is the link:

https://randomsbyarandom.wordpress.com/2016/01/01/mental-health-friday-19/#more-2248

Another shout out to Ameena for accepting my story and letting it be told! Thanks!

-LaVancia

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Posted in insanity, inspiration, mental illness, mental institution, psychosis, recovery from sz, schizophrenia, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Recovery Steps in SZ

I think the most important stage of recovery means to first overcome the more positive symptoms of schizophrenia as much as possible. This can be accomplished through a collaborate effort of:

  • the right medications
  • education and
  • counseling

I believe the most important step to start with is by taking medications; however, this can be difficult for oftentimes, a person with schizophrenia doesn’t believe they need any medication. For example, with me, it was more like the world is crazy—not me.

This is the reason why so many with mental illnesses have to be court-ordered to an in-patient mental health facility. What does this mean? It means that the consumer is forced to take the medications, or they could be tackled down and given a shot of the medication. This happened to me and after a couple of shots; I became compliant and began my journey on the “pill popping path.”

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The next, yet equally important step on the road to recovery is the adequate education of exactly what schizophrenia is. Thankfully, through outside agencies, such as NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), there is more information available than ever as in the form of websites, pamphlets and support groups. The knowledge helps to empower the mentally ill person and their care-givers so that they can start recognizing their own unique set of symptoms and warning signs.

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The problem though is that oftentimes, if a person is psychotic and hearing voices, it makes it very difficult for the individual to focus and to concentrate. That is why attempting to find the right medication first is so crucial to the development of recovery. Once some of the “noise” is lifted from an over-active psychotic mindset, simply learning to recognize a thought as being either “paranoid” or being “delusional” is the first step to retraining those automatic thoughts.

Another step is learning how to recognize psychotic ideations through the use of quality counseling on both the individual level and group level. For me, this didn’t help at first for I was in a state of denial, plus I wasn’t on the right medications; however, after a time of medication changes, I was better able to focus on developing these skills. I can recall some of the staff at the hospital (during my early days) teaching that if you are having negative thoughts just say “Stop!” Well, the reason I am pointing this out is because I wouldn’t classify that type of counseling as being very therapeutic….

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Yet, with some good individual counseling, a person with schizophrenia can learn to decipher just what is real and what isn’t. In my case, I had I very highly over-active imagination which didn’t help matters as it was easy for me to believe whatever my mind concluded to be the truth. So it took a while to weed out the delusions and to recall my past in a more accurate reflection.

During the overcoming of some of the positive symptoms of schizophrenia, it is time to reflect on the individual issues in counseling and group therapy. I believe the first major step under this classification is learning to develop adequate social skills based on an accurate perception of other individuals:

I can recall when I was in the city jail, before coming to the hospital, one of the other inmates told me not to come near her (they all knew what my charges were). However, in my deluded state, I didn’t take her seriously for I thought she was joking. So I took a big step towards her and grinned—next thing I know, I got hit on the forehead with a metal dustpan. As the blood was being wiped away by another inmate, I can remember being completely confused and didn’t understand why she hit me.

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Prior to my illness, I used to have a borderline aggressive type personality; however, after the tragic event and the reality of everything crashed down on me, I became very passive and quiet. I basically had to relearn how to communicate effectively with others and develop my non-existent social skills. With the help of classes such as assertiveness training and the development of listening skills, I began re-learning how to interact with other people in appropriate ways.

Another obstacle I found was learning how to find balance in a world of opposites. I used to think of people in a very positive light; however, when they did something that I classified as wrong, I became very negative and refused to talk or interact with the person. With the help of individual therapy, I learned to recognize this pattern and to reclassify my judgments into thinking that people had both strengths and weaknesses in their personality; as a result, I became less critical of others.

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Another aspect of recovery involves the development of coping strategies through the use of both cognitive therapy and recreational therapy. Using cognitive therapy approaches in both an individual and group setting, I believe a person with schizophrenia can develop coping strategies in several areas:

  • Learning to be aware of paranoid or delusional ideations; then retraining the mind to think before acting on a thought that may or may not be real.
  • Learning to recognize negative thinking patterns and then retraining the mind to be open to different perspectives that are more positive.
  • Learning how to appropriately handle strong and intense emotions in a positive manner and then utilizing these skills.
  • Learning to engage in a hobby such as gardening, painting, or even sewing to help a person cope by allowing them a unique way to express themselves and find peace.

For example, after a period of writing poetry for four to five years, I just stopped for I no longer seemed to have such intense mood swings—I had come to accept that I had this illness. Once acceptance came, I began to channel my energy in through other outlets such as learning various types of arts and crafts. For example, I engaged myself more by learning various card games, signing up for a crochet class, painting other patient’s fingernails, and then teaching myself how to make jewelry.

Through the realization that hope is not a futile emotion, acceptance of one’s illness can eventually begin to settle within the mind and the person can then decide with conviction that they can move forward with their life. Full recovery begins when a person has found meaning and purpose for their life regardless of the fact that they have a mental illness.

  1. They are no longer driven by their illness in an attempt to learn about it or analyze it.
  2. They are no longer blaming their mistakes or behavior on the mental illness.
  3. They develop a support network of positive people in their life.
  4. They begin to set realistic goals and start pursuing dreams.

Camas Prairie at Sunset, Idaho, USA

May God bless you all as you make your journey through this life…

LaVancia

Posted in coping skills, inspiration, mental illness, mental institution, psychosis, recovery from sz, sanity, schizophrenia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Finding Acceptance

I see a lot of people today get upset when things don’t turn out the way they “plan”; we have all had days like that–all you want to do is go to sleep and start over. I am the last to judge; however, I will be the first to remind my fellow comrades in this journey we call human life–“PLAN” is a four-lettered word.

For those who are not familiar with this old saying, which I haven’t done any official research into where it all started, (don’t think it necessary anyways), it basically gives whatever the word is a negative connotation meaning that it can bring about bad luck; therefore, a person shouldn’t use the word. Another interpretation that is often given is that the four lettered word is “dirty” or obscene and we need to keep a tight restraint on the usage of that particular type of language for it can start fights and wars….

So looking at the word “Plan” and how people often are told we need here in America to plan our life, this gives people with mental illnesses, myself included, a big knee-jerk reaction…only difference is now instead of using the word “PLAN” the code name is “GOAL” (notice, another four-lettered word!!!) And guess what?

When we miss a “goal”, we often start this internal war within ourselves, beating ourselves up and calling ourselves failures. Why do people with mental illnesses (like myself) say this is even harder on us that the average Joe? I can wake up in the morning and set a goal to do just two things. Say for example: dishes at night and putting flea medicine on my cat at the vets.

Well, here comes the first of the month. Which for most disabled people mean all our money in one lump sum for the month, except for food stamps, some get them the 5th others the 10th and others the 1st…I get mine the 10th and am glad I do. So I start writing lists, paying bills, going to the grocery store, and putting everything in its proper place…then all tired and exhausted I go one more time out to the vet. By the time I get back, my dishes remain dirty until sometime the next day.

Do I have a meltdown about it the next morning? To be honest, I used to. I would be paranoid that a neighbor may come over to my house and start to think: “What a slob! Look at all those dirty dishes piled up.” I felt tortured as if something was terribly wrong with me that I couldn’t do dishes when I “should.”

But no, not any more. I have come to accept the fact that should is a four-letter word incognito. It is a term that many counselors now label under a grouping list of words and thoughts called “stinkin’ thinkin’.”Or another way to classify them is simply negative thinking. Who came up with the “should” standard? Who says I must do dishes every night? Where does it all come from?

In my head.

And why?

Because I want to control any and every and all aspects that I can of my life while I am here on Planet Earth.

BUT…

In many aspects, control is just an illusion that most human beings steadily chase after…they place their trophies on their bookcases, their medals all along one wall, or their ribbons displayed elegantly in some shadow box all as if to brag–HEY I reached my goal!

Kudos.

Yet, where is the award for the individual who listens to their internal demons screaming that something truly bad was happening to their child while they lay trapped and helpless in a mental institution labeled as crazy so that no one would take them seriously.

Where is the award for the mothers whose children are taken from them because the mother is suddenly diagnosed with bi-polar disorder…yes, she may have screamed at the kids every once in a while, but at least she never put any bruises on her kids…and now she’s looked upon as some dangerous villain and her kids get picked up by DHS and DHS hands them back to the father who is a junkie that likes to secretly molest children?

(Warning: Four-letter word approaching…)

I’m telling you, this shit happens in reality right here in the great United States. I’ve heard plenty of horrific tales…yes, some could be considered magnified or delusional (given that most my life I have lived with people that have mental issues); however, some really happened.

Ok. Ok. I’ll stop my rant…got a little excited there. Now, let me see what the topic was at the start of this post. Oh yes. Finding acceptance…

Since I knew I was going to be stuck in the institution for a while, I went on a quest: I wanted answers as to why…why me? I searched for the truth for I felt it had to be something spiritual since the doctors still can’t pinpoint how a person gets schizophrenia.

I started reading some about Buddhism and that religion, then I progressed into chakra therapy or New Age beliefs, then I bought a book on Chinese philosophy called (not the actual, but a rendition of it) the I Ching, then somewhere in between all that, I looked into Wicca and Druidism.

Then last but not least, I asked my father (a preacher) to buy me a good Bible with a concordance in it. I spent a year or more reading and researching in the Bible. Not only did it have a cross-reference concordance in between the verses, but it also had the actual meaning of the Greek or Hebrew words used that were important.

To my surprise, I found several verses of the Bible helped me along my journey towards the acceptance of my son’s death and the fact that I ended his life. Several items that I can’t quote verbatim, but I know are in there were things like this:

  • In the Old Testament, God orders all the first-born son’s in each family to be killed by the Angel _________. Why? Because the people were not listening to God’s command to free the slaves. I thought: “What? God killing innocent children? Wow.”
  • What the Lord giveth, He can taketh away.
  • The entire book of Job-lost his family and possessions, but not his faith. And God allowed it.
  • The whole idea of owning your child is ridiculous! Children are blessings from God. Many people place their children first in their lives. That is great for I used to do the same thing; however, after what happened to my son, another verse I kept seeing was that God should be placed as number one. Live for Him and then for your family.

So I started to find a spiritual sense of security by reading the Bible again and applying it to some of my own life’s experiences. Finding acceptance with yourself needs to come first before you run out and try to get liked and accepted by others.

It’s really ironic to me how others will tell a out-right lie, and you know it is, and how it doesn’t bother me anymore. I see past the lie. I see the fear they are holding in check. They may be drunk or on drugs and pop off any answer that 80% of the time is a half-truth or flat lie and that used to make me so angry and mad.

Now, I see a fear. They are scared to be honest. Some of the fear is that I may judge them. I might label them to some extent, but never judge. That is not my place. That is God’s place. Sometimes I do get to talking and people will be so worked up and worried over what others might think…I say honey, God is the only one you have to prove anything to and since He has watched your every move; He knows how recovery can be difficult.

And yes, sometimes I even have to tell myself the very same thing. I am on Abilify 10mg in the morning now and it still makes me want to sleep a bit more. It also makes me a bit more loopy after lunch; yet overall, I feel so much happier and at peace. One more verse from the Bible that I might stumble upon again: Something about if you are a child of God, no amount of poison that the enemy tries to give you will harm you.

I say this to anyone who is considering to stop their medication without talking to their doctor first…unless it’s giving you suicidal or homicidal thoughts and ideas; God will always be there to listen to you rant and then count your tears. Learning acceptance of yourself is an on-going process. Just remember that you ARE special and you are NOT alone. Peace, LaVancia

Posted in beliefs, inspiration, mental illness, mental institution, philosophy, sanity, schizophrenia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Learning to trust…

I had a new neighbor over at my apartment this weekend. She is 55+ and appears to be very friendly. She asked me, “Why do they say you have schizophrenia? You don’t act like it…”

With this being her first time in my apartment as a guest and knowing that she lives next door, I responded with a funny reply: “I take 24 different medications!” We both laughed. Then I told her seriously, “I’d rather not talk about that now.”

She appeared to respect my answer as the topic changed to her and some of her problems. I offered her something to drink and gave her some Kool-Aid I had made. The conversation then flowed along easily after that as we took turns smoking our cigarettes.

After she went back to her apartment, I was left with an overwhelming feeling of sadness because I truly would like to be able to trust her and tell her my story; however, given some of the circumstances that has happened in her life, I know it would be best not to tell her the truth anytime soon.

Then I thought of the irony: I am not sure if I have stated this yet on my blog or not, but back when I was petitioning for my complete freedom into society back towards the end of July, (or at least a little more freedom, such as the ability to leave the county unescorted by the mental health facility or my family), my counselor received a letter from the District Attorney in charge over my case. He stated that neither he, nor the Judge, would consider giving me any more privileges until my daughter turns eighteen.

This really came as quite a surprise because I hadn’t even met with the Forensic Review Board yet to plead my argument for additional privileges. After the initial shock wore off, (which didn’t take too long given that I’ve been in the system for over 15 years), it was replaced with a much stronger emotion: HURT.

I couldn’t believe that after all these years and all these letters back and forth from not only the Forensic Review Board, but my counselors and myself to the D.A. and Judge, they obviously seemed to hold this fear that since I murdered my son, I would automatically hold some sick, insane desire to hurt my daughter or end her life.

The fact is, the D.A. and Judge don’t trust me and given some of the behaviors of other people that know my criminal background that I have met since being put out on conditional release, I would say that the community or average person in the United States (including myself, had I never really known the details of a person’s case) wouldn’t openly welcome a “crazy” person who committed homicide back into the community.

The odds are unfortunately stacked up against me. According to a study done back in 2002, approximately 40% of people with schizophrenia stop taking their medications and relapse (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12416599). Given that high ratio, plus the fact that during these past 17 years I have witnessed several from my state’s forensic mental institution who got conditional release and then relapsed, plus a few that were completely discharged and relapsed…it is very frustrating because that makes it harder on the rest of us who are doing well.

I will never forget the words that were spoken to me by the second psychiatrist that came along around my third year or so there in the institution. I had just been involved in some altercation, I can’t recall if it were physical or verbal or both; however, this Doctor told me that if I ever wanted to get out I would “have to be perfect.” He was also the first to use this term when it came to describing my present reality: living under a “microscope.”

So to put it bluntly, I had to pray that somehow Jesus was my great- great- great- great- great grandfather.

To be honest though, the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdict is “indefinite” and staff from even the Patient Advocate office will tell you that once you are branded with the NGRI acronym, you are in it for life. For example, I know of several cases where a person got discharged and then a few years later stopped taking medications and either got busted doing illegal drugs or got in trouble arguing with police.

They both got sent to jail for only a short time and then back to the state forensic hospital they went. Some went into prison; others got NGRI again. This is why I am writing my story and I thank God everyday for my 24 medications.

The society as a whole may have a hard time trusting me (and with justifiable reasons); but what most don’t seem to realize is that I have a hard time trusting society as a whole. It is difficult to live in a world with a past that can turn others into hateful, spiteful, and judgmental people.

This is why I will never stop attending the mental health facility I go to. I can be myself there; no make-up or skeletons hiding in the closet there. This is also why I blog under a pen name. I am a very sensitive person who’s stomach literally knots up whenever I sense negativity from others that is directed towards me (be it real or imagined).

Many people use the word “strong” to describe me; in some aspects, I guess I can see that to be true.

Yet when my mind starts reeling with thoughts about what do others really know about me… should I have trusted a person with my past or not… or how will I be able to hold back my honesty… (for I hate not being able to tell the truth)… It just makes me feel like a caged bird who is not permitted to sing as I experience this overwhelming fear and terror of being assaulted violently by others who feel that I should rot in hell forever…

 

 

Posted in coping skills, insanity, mental illness, schizophrenia, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Finally, I feel a breeze…

These past couple of weeks I have been steadily working on my final draft of my journals. This makes “Round 3” in the editing process. I have done the majority of the work from a hard copy printout of “Round 2.” So far, I have completed the first year (51 pages total) and I have experienced a variety of emotions as I read about the life of the young 21-year-old LaVancia. The vanity I possessed was outrageous, not to mention how gullible I truly was to the ways of the manipulative “Ms. MaryJane” (or marijuana) that I smoked nearly on a daily basis.

Yet that very same naïve life was looked upon today from an absolute objective point of view in that I was seeking out traits of early stage schizophrenia. One of those traits that you will read at the top of practically every list found on the internet is “social withdrawal.” For some reason, I didn’t notice during the first two rounds of editing that in the year of 1995, I made a major “exodus.” It is stated clearly in several of the last entries how I was planning to leave the particular state I lived in and was going to move to another and start with this fresh new beginning….

I was going to return to a different college for that fall semester and for the first time in my life, live in a dorm (my dad would be taking temporary care of my toddler son for me). With this major migration, I left all my friends behind and didn’t communicate with any of the ones that had grown to love and accept me for who I really was. The only one I kept in touch with was the married man that I was having an affair with that was twenty years older than me. (Like I said, gullible, if not borderline delusional.)

This really hit home with me today in the physical manifestation of a low-blow hit to the gut sensation as my stomach got upset and I had to center myself or risk getting swept away with the harsh reality of my prior stupidity and run to the toilet and vomit just like some young pup who’d had too much alcohol. I’m thinking … how could I have missed this? Duh! Please feel free to slap your computer screen.

No wonder I have been depressed for the past couple of weeks. I know I had been feeling extremely lonely to the point that not even half a bag of Cheetos could cheer me up. One thing I truly miss from those days was having people that seemed to enjoy my company. People that came to visit or give me a phone call. Nowadays, I sit in this quiet apartment and I feel like with all the so called “friends” I have made I have always been the one to call or text them first. (Now for the 2 friends out there who DO call me on occasion, ignore this statement … you know who you are.)

Sort of been feeling like one side of a dam that is about to burst as I tap away my frustrations on this keyboard connected (finally) to a “new” computer that I put together myself … yes, this nearly 300 pound walrus was lying on the floor shining a desk lamp onto the back of this heavy 30 pound clunker that took almost 3 days to upload all the updates as I snapped, crackled, and popped myself back up off the floor and headed to the medicine cabinet for some more Motrin.

Yet in spite of my sore back and quiet solitude, I am quite happy to report that I am no longer the delusional, gullible, manipulative, and vain young woman from twenty years ago. I also am happy to say that word is getting around here in the neighborhood that I make jewelry; I had two of my neighbors (whom I’d only known their names and seen walking to their places) come knocking on my door wanting to see my box of goodies. So I invited them in.

It was fun to sit at the kitchen table and see them go: “Ooh! Look at this one!” and “Ah! How much for this?” Both agreed I should set up a booth somewhere.…so that was a nice break from my solitary silence.

Another excellent thing to report is that since I have gained weight, I thought I’d bring it up to the psychiatrist this month and see what he’d do. He told me he could try and take me off Resperidal. I told him that would be wonderful because before, when I was in the institution during the last five or six years, I was on Abilify in the morning and Seroquel at night. So he took me off the Resperidal and changed it to Abilify. I have been thanking God ever since!

I actually had to order 3 new pair of jeans yesterday because I have gained about 25 pounds in the past four months. All the new jeans (about 5 pair) that I ordered last year are extremely tight, to the point that if I were to try and sit and eat in them I would not be able to breathe. I am going to be getting some orthotics next week and I intend to try to walk more. I walked a little this past pay day and I couldn’t make it to the store and had to call for the taxi to come and get me.

I also made my last payment on my craft desk and intend to save up some money for a new chest-of-drawers and nightstand. Well, I have been typing this on my cordless keyboard while sitting on my couch with a heatpack on my back and my cordless mouse and pad next to me; however, my legs are getting tired and my cat just woke up…she’s been sleeping a lot lately.

I had to give her some flea medicine a couple of days ago. I thought I could do it by myself…ha! It wound up going instead of on just the back of her neck, the back and the side of her neck got wet and I got a few scratches and an unhappy kitty. Oh well and these are the days of LaVancia’s life…LOL. May God Bless You all! –Sincerely, LaVancia

Posted in journals, medication, mental illness, schizophrenia, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments