The world needs some formal training about mental illnesses and the lifetime of “people afflicted with these diseases suffer.” Truly, I’m tired of hearing “You have to understand it’s their culture to believe you just get over it” or “You can’t change anyone but yourself and your reactions.” Damn, I’m so freaking aware of these two things I could recite them if I was comatose.
Lack of compassion from said individuals is perfectly okay and something I should just ignore? When family members watch me take my medications at night and repeatedly say, “There you go taking medicines you don’t need,” it is a soul-shattering statement that translates as “You’re a druggie.” People who refuse to acknowledge that sleep is a huge component in mental healthcare; however, these people have attended doctors’ appointments, watched me spend a week in an inpatient psych unit, experienced me when I am at my worst and hallucinating.
In the years since 2015, and especially since 2018, I have worked my ass off to overcome multiple phobias and strengthen my mental fitness. Because I appear better a majority of the time, many think that means I am cured. Hear this: There is NO cure for extreme mental illnesses. There are only treatments. There will be relapses, this week has been one of the worst I’ve had in months, but instead of support, I get “You keep taking medicines you don’t need.” Here’s an idea, become a licensed psychiatrist and I will consider your recommendations at that time. What nobody understands is, by saying things like this, they are doing more harm than good.
Why you ask? Because I value this person’s opinion more than anyone else’s, I stopped taking many of my medications. Guess what, I’m willing to bet my guilt and stupidity is to blame for this relapse. MY guilt and MY stupidity. I know better than to try to take myself off medications, there is no one to blame but me, and what an ego boost that is.
I recognize many people do not know the harm they are doing by making these types of statements. Oddly enough, my psychiatrist is of the same culture as my family members, so the “that’s just their culture” doesn’t ring true to me.
Today, I am angry, hurt, and deeply heart-broken. I have nothing else to add.
I despise the idea of a person being identified as “toxic.” There I said it. Along with all the other PC terms we have been made aware of, a human being is a person. A human is not disabled, they are people with disabilities. A child is not a bad child, they are children who are acting badly. You see where I am headed.
Plenty of things are toxic: drugs, plants, certain foods, actions, relationships, etc. Nobody wants to believe their actions are toxic to others. We are always looking for someone or something else to blame. Every human is imperfect. Every human is self-centered to some extent; let’s face it, it’s called survival. I realize it is hard for some people to recognize they are flawed, but it is the truth. Our judgments are biased which brings me to the topic of toxicity.
When a person begins referring to another person as toxic, can we take that as the truth? Does this person simply clash with the other person? Could it be dislike and not toxicity? Yes. Always yes until you obtain objective proof that said person’s action is toxic. Even then, though, two people can have a toxic relationship, a persons’ lack of coping skills can be toxic, a persons’ actions can be toxic. And, take it from somebody who truly knows, the person is likely unaware of their issues because they are stuck inside their own head with thoughts and ideations cycling, never ceasing.
By defining that person as toxic, you are doing absolutely nothing to help that person. You are separating yourself from a person that needs help and thereby removing one more resource from their reach. Yes, you must protect yourself and you can do this by not taking a person’s feelings as your own.
You can change your relationship. For example, my oldest daughter moved home for a couple of years after she married and our relationship turned toxic. It was a matter of different belief systems, hard feelings about inconsequential crap, and being cramped in a small house with five people and six dogs. My health, mentally and physically, caused many problems. People would have called me toxic and my actions would have proved them true. Other circumstances helped created a toxic relationship.
My gorgeous daughter moved into her own home and we get along great. There are still moments when we would each like to strangle each other, but those are sporadic and we typically come to an understanding that we don’t have to agree on everything, we need to respect each other and our rights to our own opinions.
By getting us out of a single home, the relationship balanced and few, if any, would refer to our relationship as toxic. That being said, we learned new coping skills. We worked on ourselves. I recognize her work and I hope she can acknowledge my improved coping.
We live in a society where nearly half of all marriages end in divorce. Children and adults alike are turning to weapons instead of words. According to the CDC, suicide rates raised 30% from 1999 to 2016. Rash decisions plague both people and businesses. Social media affects mental health, both negatively and occasionally positively. A push of a button sends unfettered and thoughtless words to the world. No effort is made to maintain relationships, to learn appropriate communication and/or coping skills. It is so easy to unfollow, unfriend, and block people who have differing opinions. We attach labels to people we haven’t taken time to know.
Toxicity can loiter into the area of he said/she said. Shades of gray color all people. Blame is assigned helter-skelter and no one is ever completely innocent.
Before we write someone off, let’s try to be patient and understand what is happening. Why is a person behaving in a destructive manner? Is there a possible way they can be helped without endangering your physical or mental health? Can you just listen? Can the relationship be changed instead of dismissed? Have you taken time to complete an honest self-evaluation? Are there actions or reactions you can make to ease tension?
I am not saying there aren’t times when two people shouldn’t be friends. There are times when divorce is the answer.
What I am saying is let’s take a tad bit more time before we issue a cease and desist on a friendship or relationship. It’s all pretty simple. Practice humanitarianism.
Today is January 4, 2020, and you might notice I am only now addressing this new year and new decade. Honestly, it isn’t born of laziness or lack of want, we’ve had a less than perfect holiday season. I will spare you all the details as it is not something I am willing to discuss publicly, only to say we had a death in the family.
Moving on… Today I spoke with my oldest daughter about New Year’s Resolutions and personality types. I doubt anyone will be surprised to know I fit the “Rebel” personality type. Outside of all my wonderfully adorable inadequacies, the foundation of this definition is based on how I feel about resolutions, as in I don’t believe in setting myself up for failure. I prefer mantras to remind me about my goals. Since this method worked during 2019, I think I will continue along this path until it proves as a failure.
I’ve read several self-help books. Brene Brown is one of my favorite gurus. She speaks from earned experience. Mark Manson is another author I read regularly. His approach involves comedy. I am making my way through Malcolm Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers. Soon I will get my hands on While We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreamsby Matthew Walker, Ph.D. I suffer from chronic insomnia and I’m hoping this book contains a magical cure. Every time I pulled a book up on Audible it spoke to me, giving me advice on a current problem in my life.
Now, I will let you in on my not-at-all unique life strategies.
#1. Most importantly – Do unto others as you would have done unto you. This is a fairly universal belief regardless of choice of religion or lack thereof. And, simplistic in its nature, anyone can understand the Golden Rule. If you want to be respected show respect. Want civility, be civil. Want kindness, be kind. Want honestly, speak truthfully and reserve your judgment.
#2. My favorite – Perfection is rare so concentrate on being better than you were yesterday. If that means you are suffering from depression and haven’t gotten out of your pajamas in days, change into day clothes, even if that is a t-shirt and sweats. Strive for a shower the next day. Make your bed the next. If you falter, try again, because you will falter and that is okay.
#3. Great advice – Do the right thing, especially when no one is watching. The example I use with my daughters is, return your grocery cart to the basket lane. If you decide you don’t want an item already in your cart, put it back where you found it. Of course, this mantra is to be applied to much more difficult tasks. Tell the truth even when it’s easier to lie. I suppose, just hold yourself to a high standard. Exceed expectations. It is important to remember, outside of black and white issues, what is right for you in one situation may not be right for others.
#4. Self-awareness – Be wary of judgment. The judgment of others and the judgment of yourself. We all fall victim to gossip. Everyone has moments of self-doubt. Recognize negative thoughts and work to reverse them. Just because everyone “does it” doesn’t make it okay. If we all make an effort to speak kindly the world can become an easier place to live. Be nice to others and be nice to yourself.
While I reread this article, I realized it sounds as if I am preaching and I don’t mean to. However, if something mentioned helps another individual then that is a good thing.
According to The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles..my refusal to set resolutions, to claim they set me up for failure, and some other crap, I am a Rebel. This is okay. The strides I’ve made in the last year are numerous. The last two weeks tested everything I’ve worked to accomplish and for today, I’m still fighting to be better tomorrow.
I came to consciousness one early morning; confused and scared. A nurse called my name and sat me in a chair to do my vital signs. Other individuals, both men and women, wondered around a room with a couple of worn couches, one round table and another longer one sat toward the other end of the room. A counter placed against a wall held a coffee pot and water. Other than the nurses standing behind the nursing station, nothing clearly marked as to where I had slept the night with these strangers.
This room should have been familiar to me as I did my mental health nursing rotation in this facility, specifically, inside this room. Only after talking to my mother on the phone later did I realize I had been committed to the Pavillion, my city’s only in-house psych facility. No recollection of the several days leading to this point existed. Not after I talked to the nurses, the doctors, the counselors, or the patients. Not after I spoke to anyone in my family.
Sketchy pieces of memories from that hospital stay flashed–continue to flash–in my ungrounded mind. The things my family revealed to me frightened me to the core; however, the things other people have told me are suspicious. Skepticism lingers at the edges of my every move, peeking out here or there, like peripheral vision. You catch a glance of something too quick to identify before it disappears again.
What I have been told, that I do not remember, is I was found disoriented with slurred speech. I rode in the ambulance to the hospital where I stayed in the ER for a while. From there I was transferred into a semi-private room where my daughters stayed overnight with me. There are some flashes of this memory I recognize. However, apparently, at some point, and I don’t know when, I begged my family to take me to the cops so I could turn myself in. For what? Hell if I know. Upon my release from the medical hospital, I was asked if I wanted to be admitted to the Pavillion and I said yes. As my oldest daughter said, “That’s when we realized how sick you were.” Apparently, I answered all the “orientation” questions correctly and the healthcare workers diagnosed me as being in my right mind, so off to the Pavillion I went.
**The entire time I stayed at the Pav, nobody could convince me I wasn’t in some sort of experiment or job interview or reality TV show or a torture chamber. I followed the pack to groups, to meals, to bed. I never questioned anything aloud but boy did my mind try to solve all sorts of puzzles. Little arrows carved into tiny tiles on the floor led me to the bathroom and back to my bed again. A book I read said I needed to just lay down and die, so I tried to hold my breath. (Yes, I was a nurse and know you can only hold your breath until you pass out and then you start breathing again. I can tell you that at this time, on this day, as of this moment.)
**Everybody watched me, observed my every move, I actually thought at some point the patients were implants to trigger my paranoia. And, still to this day, I am unsure of what I experienced. The questions are always there, creeping and filling my head with doubt. Why was that one always on the phone? Why was that one asking me questions he already knew? Why did they sit outside my room at night and discuss me? How did paperwork from 2006 get hung up around the unit in 2015? So many questions that I don’t have the answers to and may never know the answers. Without a concrete memory, there is nothing tying me to the situation.
The attending psychiatrist found me to be partially catatonic at the Pav and wouldn’t release me until “I asked to go home with a smile.” This, I remember vividly. Maybe because I have never been so scared or wanted to go home so bad in all my life. Maybe because asking to go home and smiling seemed like an impossible fete.
I’ve seen my medical records from the medical hospital and know they also characterized me as catatonic. I also know I had not tried to commit suicide or overdosed on anything because I have my medical records from that day, and my medical records from the next several times I showed up at the emergency room. Only benzodiazepines showed up in a minuscule amount and since I was prescribed Xanax, it stands to reason that the test would show positive. I am afraid to peruse my records from the Pav because I’m not certain I will believe them.
**Once home, every sound bothered me. My husband’s video games talked to me. My dogs weren’t really my dogs. People drove by to check on me. The house was booby-trapped so I could only move and touch certain things. I always saw “messages” on the television. My lack of concentration kept me from reading. The fear of what I saw kept me from reading, writing, or much of anything else. People who called my phone were decidedly not real. Appointments magically changed dates. My family continuously played a game by moving their feet around.
And so much more.
Honestly, my family didn’t know how to communicate with me, so they side-eyed me, talked to me in soft whispers, and treated me as if I was truly insane. They all say they never met with one of my counselors, nurses, or doctors and were left in the dark as what to do with me.
These bouts of paranoia continue to plague me, though I am stronger now than I have been in many years, I recognize my thought processes and can usually turn them around before falling into Alice’s rabbit hole.
My last episode happened in May of this year. My husband knew something was off and so did my oldest daughter. I made a doctor’s appointment that brought about skeptical feelings. They wanted a urine sample and I was unable to give them one. Once we got to the emergency room, when they pulled me back three hours later, they plied me with normal saline and a urine sample was obtained. This incident nearly had me begging to go back to the Pavillion again. A place I promised I would never enter again as a patient.
So many memories. The scariest yet to come.
Maybe my most terrifying delusion of hallucination involved my sister and her wife who flew up to make certain I wasn’t being “a drain on society.” To make certain I was making some “positive efforts and functioning as a normal human.” They trapped me in my room threatening to take me back home with them where they would track everything I did on the computer, cell phone, or reading tablets
I’m not sure where this scenario came from, but, my sister and her wife had found a way to turn me into a piece of cloth that would blow with the wind and eventually, the cloth would deteriorate until I was, literally, nothing more than a piece of sand and my existence was erased from all of history. No birth record, no baptism certificate, no marriage certificate, no children, no husband–only a grain of sand. Nothing more.
When I come to my senses, I recognized how impossible it would be to turn me into a piece of cloth, but people, hear this; in the middle of a psychotic event, everything feels real. My sister and I don’t have an unhealthy relationship. We are friends, my family all just took a vacation and we stayed with them. Nothing abnormal happened.
To put all this succinctly, I was fucking scared. (I don’t apologize for the language, because come on people, there’s no other way to describe this experience.)
Again, this routine would return several times over the next few years; it still returns presently. There is a single commonality among every “episode.” I always have a urinary tract infection when these things happen. After over four years of this, I find that too pretty of a package tied up with a bow. I have read study after study talking about how UTIs can cause major psychoses but after everything I have been through, my brain refuses to fall for such an easy answer.
I’ve been free from these spells for over six months. While this is positive, there is also a tickle in my mind wondering when the next hallucinations will strike.
I am much better now. I can write about it and talk about it but most people don’t get my dark sense of humor. Every breath I take is another second of life that cannot be wasted.
*As I’ve mentioned before, the things I write are my experiences and mine alone. Each person in my family has their own stories but those I cannot tell.
**These paragraphs are filled with imagery and my experience inside a psychotic break.
Title: Ninth House: Alex Cross #1
Series: Alex Cross
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Macmillan: Flatiron Books
Publishing Year: 2019
Purchased: Barnes & Noble (Brick and Mortar)
Image and blurb attributed to Goodreads
The mesmerizing adult debut from #1 New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo
Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.
My Thoughts:Ninth House has many conflicting reviews. I will go on record as saying I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Bardugo’s newest novel. The bevy of characters fascinated me, especially since the author consistently added to each of the characters’ stories. Every turn of the page brought surprises, shocks, and awes. My heart pounded, pulse raced, and head ached from the whiplash unleashed.
Major Character Overview:
Galaxy Stern (AKA-Alex Stern): An odd addition to Yale. At 20 years of age, one of the deans found her in a hospital and insisted she go to Yale on a full scholarship. When she enrolled she had only a GED, but she possessed other skills the university desperately needed. Her past was littered with trouble and inconsistencies. As the narrator, she proved to be unreliable. Secrets encased her, hiding her self-apprehension. All Alex’s mysterious enigma slowly fades as her reality is unveiled, piece by piece.
Daniel Arlington (AKA-Darlington): As the leader of the Lethe House he had a duty to watch over eight other houses, all possessing some type of paranormal abilities. His official title: the Virgil. A perfect specimen of Yale University’s college life. He spoke many languages, learned everything possible about the Lethe, took his duty as a student and a Virgil seriously, and resented Alex.
Pamela Dawes (AKA-Dawes): Dawes served the Lethe as the Oculus, according to Darlington, “[She] keeps everything running and ensures I [Darlington] don’t make too big a fool of myself.” Dawes and Alex have a tenuous relationship throughout the book. Dawes’s occlusive ways and her attachment to Tarot cards helped separate her from others.
My Thoughts: While there are many other important characters, these are the three that advance the mysterious plotline throughout the chapters. Ninth House was my baptism into Leigh Bardugo’s writing and reading this around Halloween built the suspense and the horror of the prognostications performed by the eight other houses. The cast of characters each has secrets and you can never think you know anything about anyone. Their personalities and anything assumed can change with the flip of a page.
There are a few flaws in the writing and I’m not particularly fond of the back and forth from present to past and past to present because it muddles the clarity. Especially since you are dropped into the middle of the action and are then forced to look to the past, the present, and the future. As one fellow bookstagrammer said, “it was completely unnecessary.” Once I acclimated myself, the story flowed and I became invested in the characters, the houses, the Lethe house history, and the grays. More than one mystery is presented, a few are solved, and many more are left unanswered.
I thought of a million things to say about this novel, but all of them are cliche. Ms. Bardugo’s writing beguiled and enraptured me within the pages of this wonderfully dark, mysterious, and horrifying suspense. While this author’s other novels are strongly categorized as Young Adult, Ninth House is for mature readers due to violence and vocabulary.
A definite 5/5 star read for me. The hype behind this book was huge. If you’ve read Ninth Houseleave me a comment and tell me how you felt about this crazy story.