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“Weird” Child, Concerned Parent

I write this post to show how a few misunderstandings and miscommunications can help ruin the trust between parent and child. This happened to me and my spirituality. I learned in my older age that hate and fear are caused by not knowing. A little education on one side of the equation can lead to understanding and tolerance on the other. This works for both good things and bad. So, let me get to my story.

My spiritual journey started when I was very young. My mom would take me to resident new age shops in the area. I was always very sociable, so I got along just fine with others at these places, and I was always very open minded, as my mom had always taught me. I learned about energy, chakras, the importance of positivity, etc. All I can remember from these years were happiness, acceptance, and love. My mom tucked me in every night, and we used to pray together. I still remember the prayer we used to pray after the Our Father (Lord’s Prayer). It was the Guardian Angel prayer. I still, to this day, have the plaque with that prayer inscribed on it next to my bed.

Later around first grade I was taught in school that these beautiful things my mom taught me, all of those books I had, my tarot cards, my runes, my crystals, etc. were all of the devil. I listened, but secretly I still kept all of that which my mom taught me in my heart. In my soul there was a fire that has guided me throughout life that my mother ignited. I will always be thankful to her for giving a love that would carry me through the some of the hardest times in my life. It was spirituality, in any form, that would protect my mind, and help form me as a man later on. As an adult this spirituality helped me through a lot of my mental illness.

All paths lead to the same center. Much like spokes in a wheel. I lost my faith in Catholicism at around eleven or twelve, but I was still hungry for worship, so, around thirteen, I turned to Wicca. This is a beautiful pagan tradition which has a trinity like Christianity. You have the God, male aspect of divinity, the Goddess, the female aspect of divinity, and the All which is the combination of the two. I loved the holidays! I celebrated the esbats which honored the Goddess since they were performed during the lunar cycles. I also celebrated the sabats which celebrated the solar cycle or the year, also representing the God. The All was inside of me, and I carried it, in my heart, everywhere I went.

Of course, in the eyes of my parents, wearing a pentagram, which represents the four elements and spirit, and having a dagger on my altar, really made them concerned. The dagger, or athame, is meant to “cut” and direct energy and was never meant to be sharpened or used to draw blood. My poor father was so concerned that he forbade me to have an altar and threw away all of my books. Bless his heart, if it were my son, and I came from the Christian background, I would have done the same exact thing! Apparently the superstitious house keeper reported that I was doing rituals naked in the back yard! This is not true. I would practice skyclad(naked) when I was a little older, in my room and in privacy! The reason one practices naked is so that there is nothing between you and the All. I thought it was romantic, so I did it. Also, clothes can be symbolic to what we hide behind, almost like a mask. So being naked allows you to not hide anything back from divinity.

The second misunderstanding was also from the housekeeper when I stole the sea salt from the kitchen.  She said that I had been making circles of salt in my room in a ritualistic way. This part was true. In Wicca salt is used to consecrate a sacred space. When you make a circle, in Wicca, that area becomes sacred space, and a place where you can commune with the God and Goddess. Note around this time I was already fifteen. So, this had all been happening for a few years. My parents still give me grief, to this day, about all of this, and I am thirty-three!

At sixteen I moved on to studying mysticism, Hermeticism, and comparative mythology. So, in other words, I left Wicca behind. I found the need to find the truth behind Wicca and other religions. This would take me through an incredible journey spanning many traditions and practices. I would meet many teachers and learn so much about people. Unfortunately, I kept most of this away from my parents fearing they would judge me and be harsh like they did about Wicca. I regret this because I would have loved to share the beauty of some of the things that I was discovering with them. Unfortunately, after the Wicca fiasco I don’t think they trusted me anymore. Also, my teenage years were hard on all of us. I was the typical teenager rebel asshole to my parents, so that didn’t help.

I’d like to be a parent one day, and I’d love to be as good of a parent as my mom and dad have been with me. The parenting handbook doesn’t come with a, “Your child is doing weird occult things,” section. Actually, if I’m correct, there is no handbook on parenting at all! I think my parents did what they thought was right, but I wish there was more communications on both our parts. Also, I am to blame for becoming so secretive over the years about my beliefs. This is something that would pull me apart from them until my mental illness manifested, and we were brought together again. Well, I hope this can help anyone with a teenager getting into “weird” things. I invite parents to research what their kid is into, good or bad, before intervening.

The Support Team

As a mentally ill person it is really hard to deal with crisis alone. We are put into situations where we can’t make healthy decisions by ourselves. A simple example of this is when I’m manic and I’m ready to make a purchase online. I usually run this by a friend of mine who is part of my support team. What I’m trying to avoid is something that is common in mania which is called manic spending. When I’m manic I tend to be a little reckless when it comes to things like spending money. I’ve had friends who have run up a crazy credit card bill, or even maxed out their credit cards, on reckless manic spending. This is the same thing as asking a friend to drive when you are drunk. In this case I was looking at some first edition signed books that I found particularly alluring! My friend reminded me that I have too many books that I haven’t read, and that those same books could be purchased on amazon in regular form for a fraction of the price. Of course, this is a brutally simple example, but the trust I have in my friend in helping me make healthy decisions is the important part.

When depressed it is important to reach out because depression can become unmanageable very quickly. I rather call someone on my team than end up hurting myself. Also, it is good to have people around you on your team to help monitor you for unusual behavior. This can be insightful in how you are being, and what you are thinking, when you are caught up not noticing a symptom of your illness. When I’m delusional, meaning thinking things that aren’t based on reality, my father usually notices right away. Once I was visiting a monk that came to town to teach. I told my family that I was, “Harboring monks.” This is absurd, but very much a delusion. Now being aware of it I could run it with my psychiatrist and therapist for appropriate action. Sometimes I’m not aware when I’m depressed or slightly manic. For example, I can be cranky or outright angry for no reason, and I won’t notice. Being made aware of that lets me apply techniques taught to me by my psychologist to normalize my mood. I keep a mood journal, and these insights are very helpful when I’m recording my mood.

So, what exactly is a support team? A support team is group of people which have been designated by you through many years of trust in order to “catch” you when you fall or are falling. My team includes my psychiatrist, my therapist, my dad, and my best friend. I have avoided tons of horrors by trusting and going to my team when in trouble, and also consulting them when I’m lost, confused, or feel alone. A team should include professionals that are trained in what to do in case of crisis and loving family members and friends that are educated about mental illness that know you well and are good sounding boards. A person who is a good sounding board is someone that listens to you and makes you aware of what you are saying in an impartial way. It is very important that the members of your team don’t judge you or criticize you. They should treat you with respect and be there for you whenever you need them. Also, if something is a bit much for one team member to handle, they should guide you to the appropriate help either from someone else in the team or someone that can help outside of the team.

I learned about the support team in treatment and is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. These team members can also hold you accountable for your goals and actions you want to take. They can also help you in whatever you need. A support team is a part of a support structure, which is like a spider’s web. A support structure also includes things like information and education about you illness and treatments, but I will write about that in the future.

 

 

Am I Oriented Correctly?

I remember when I was fifteen, I thought I was gay. This was the end of my world. I felt a sense of guilt that was deep and unending. I had no clue where this guilt was coming from. My uncle and aunt are gay, and my parents were always surrounded by gay people due to their work, so I was always around loving gay people. My parents never spoke ill about gays, and they always have supported my sexuality. I discovered this guilt was a self-inflicted punishment for me thinking that I would not fit into society anymore. I was afraid of being persecuted and judged for being something that I couldn’t control. This was mostly caused by a lot of gay people I knew, and still know, telling me that being gay was impossible, and that if they had the choice they would be straight. I was very ashamed of myself, and much later of them! I was fifteen and confused, isn’t that typical anyway? The realization of being gay changed everything about me. I became shy, depressed, and started to partake in self-harm. This was a painful time in my life, and even though I was surrounded by gay individuals, I was too afraid to talk about the subject.

The most confusing part was that I had a girlfriend at the time, which I loved very much, and was very attracted to. So, how could I be gay and be attracted to someone of the opposite sex. Then it dawned on me, I’m bisexual. This threw me into an even deeper depression. See, being gay is very hard when integrating into society, but being bisexual, in my experience, is much worse. Even though I could be with someone of the opposite sex and be “normal” I found that if anyone found out, I would be too straight to be gay, and too gay to be straight. So, I found myself not fitting in with any groups of people.

Throughout my high school years, I had a very good friend. He was my first crush. We even came out of the closet to each other. Now thinking about it our innocence was almost beautiful. I never knew how he felt about me, and eventually he got a boyfriend, and I a girlfriend, so nothing ever happened. I remember, as kids, all of us friends sat at a table and told each other what we didn’t like about each other. Real healthy, right? I didn’t really care about the others, because at that point I was not at good ends with most of them, but I really cared what my gay friend had to say about me. That would be the first time I encountered discrimination against bisexuals. He told me that there was no such thing as bisexuality, and that I had to pick one or the other. Oh boy was I hurt. I went home and cried for hours. This would just reinforce the self-punishment and depression that I was feeling.

Throughout the years I have heard it all. “Oh, you’re just confused,” “Oh you must be very promiscuous being able to have sex with everybody.” I have even heard, “You must love threesomes!” The truth is, I’m not confused! Now, more than ever, I know who I am. The other two are ridiculous. I’m the least promiscuous person you could ever meet! I believe in monogamy, and I believe in being in love before sex. So, no one night stands for me. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but I tend to be more of a romantic lol. So I have found that what I do behind closed doors is none of anybody’s business! Also, sexuality is just that, it shouldn’t define a person. It is just part of that person. I’m not proud to be bisexual. I’m proud to be alive and relatively healthy. I’m also proud to be myself however that is! After all of the suffering I have had due to my bipolar illness, being bisexual is not that big of a deal in my head anymore. It seems I have skipped to the end of the article too quickly, let me continue the story.

Throughout the years I found a need to belong to a group, so I would convince myself that I was straight or gay just so that I could fit in. I would later be disappointed when I would be attracted to the wrong sex. I went to Boston for treatment at Mclean hospital, and later I would move into a residential treatment center for six months. There I was encouraged to find myself again. This involved partaking in the arts, reading, writing, playing music, going to events, etc. I remember going to my first pride parade and starting to cry. For the first time, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong, and not feeling like being bisexual was wrong. I stopped the self-punishment. My shyness began to subside, and I felt alive again. Soon I would realize that I didn’t need to belong to any groups, I just needed to be myself.

People need a boogie man to pick on. Once it was women’s rights, then African Americans. It was gays for some time, now it’s transgendered people, and soon it will be Hispanics (Sorry, “Mexicans”. There is nothing wrong with Mexicans. I’m just stating the term that people use to refer to Hispanics now.). I guess what I’m trying to say is just try to be yourself. Don’t just be proud of your sexuality, be proud of all of you. I feel we are lucky to even be alive!

The Patient Role

In treatment I learned about two types of attitudes towards oneself and illness. In my experience I found that there is a third. These are the roles of a victim, survivor, and thriver. Throughout the journey of chronic illness, like mental illness, I have found that I have been in all three of these roles many times over. When you think you are in one, you could easily be in another. Sometimes it is very difficult to pin down what attitude, or role, I am in.

When I first got sick, I entered the victim or patient role. In this role I found myself asking myself, “Why me? Why am I doomed to this existence?” I would try to blame anyone, thing, or even beat myself up over my illness. This is the stage where I was my illness instead of me having an illness. I remember being in a treatment center, and the staff required you to introduce yourself in this way. “Hi, my name is Jon. I am Bipolar 1. I have OCD and am ruling out histrionic personality disorder and panic disorder.” Wow what an atomic mouthful! In English this means “Hi I’m Jon, I’m sick, and here is my medical diagnosis including the stuff that the doctors aren’t even sure I have.” In truth, a medical diagnosis is used for doctors to administer a treatment, and not to become part of your identity. Even though I realized this later, a lot of treatment centers force you to think the opposite. This ended up putting me in the position of a patient instead of the position of a person. In the long run this made me feel powerless. Being powerless I developed a hate for life, and I entered a vicious cycle of self-pity that took a very long time to get over.

Next came the survivor role. I remember that after my first two years in treatment I finally got over the victim role and began the survivor role. In this role I started to accept that I was sick, and that it was nobody’s fault, not even my own. I still found myself confused and suffering, and I would tell myself that I would do anything to survive this mess. I was still a patient because I thought I was my illness, but at this point life wasn’t about self-pity, it was about surviving severe psychiatric and psychological episodes that occurred quite frequently. When you are sick for a long time, you get used to being sick. I know I did. I lived from crisis to crisis and from problem to problem. I accepted this as my eternal fate and couldn’t imagine getting any better. Getting better was frightening because it was hard for me to imagine a world where my disease wasn’t the center of it. I had spent most of my years that I have been ill in this role. Then I had a life changing moment. My uncle, who was a light in my life, passed away.

This is a little side story, but you will see why its relevant to the last stage. When my uncle passed away, I became a man. I know, being a boy at thirty-one is a little rough, but when I got sick and entered the victim role, at twenty-one, my maturation process slowed down. The family dynamic changed completely when my uncle passed, and in subtle ways I needed to step up to bat and be an active part of my family. My mom and dad needed me to be there emotionally, and I needed to become more responsible for myself and for my family. At this point my problems were important but had to be put into perspective with the whole. My family’s problems became my own as well, so I had to stop being a kid, and mature quickly. I’m happy that I can be there for my family now, instead of being a tag along. I’m still growing, but I know when needed, I will be there no matter how I am. That leads me to the third stage.

When I acknowledged my illness as only one part of me, one part of many, I was free from the survival stage, and entered the thriving stage. Now I am not afraid of being healthy, and I accept that I can be healthy for long periods of time, and that I can move on with my life. I have picked up hobbies and different interests. I have started to make plans for the future, and I don’t get as hung up on the past like I used to. I live with my illness and I’m not a slave to it anymore. Even if I fall into crisis, I understand that it is only temporary. I accept the fact that everyone has good days and bad, illness or not! At the end I keep living, trying my best, and taking care of myself, so that I can be there for myself and for those that I love.

Sometimes I repeat some of the stages above, but I know now that I have the power to thrive. That is freeing. It also brings a lot of hope. This process also shows you that you are more than your illness, and helps you find reasons to live. It gives you wisdom and also color to your life. It is our right to thrive and be happy. Thriving is also a great place to aim for too. I hope my experience through this journey of roles helps you find your own way.

Jon Is So Inconsistent!

I was called inconsistent by someone I love very much. Even though this bothered me greatly, I didn’t confront or get angry at this person, because I know this person meant no harm. This person also loves me and understands me well. Regardless of what this person said, inconsistency in my attendance at family get togethers as well as get togethers with friends has gotten a lot worse since I became ill. I find that people tend to be a little inconsiderate when expecting you to do things a certain way or be certain places when you are not feeling well. Honestly it makes me feel like crap when I can’t be with my family and friends due to depression.

This is how I judge whether or not I will go somewhere or do anything when I’m depressed. Let me begin that, for me, isolating is always a bad idea when I’m depressed. I try my hardest to be with my family, or at least with one of my parents at least some part of the day when I’m feeling blue. I don’t like making my problems other people’s problems, and throughout the years I have had very bad experiences being depressed around people. If I am so depressed that I’m going to call attention to myself I usually don’t go to a get together. Also, if I have trouble getting out of bed, meaning my concentration, attention, etc. are affected I don’t like to mingle with others because I can’t be myself.

I have a huge fear of crowds. I can usually handle a crowded room relatively well when I’m not depressed. When I am depressed though, I am usually anxious. I can’t be in a crowded place without starting to panic. This adds to my depression because it makes me feel like I’m trash for not being able to attend an event. An example was my niece’s first communion. I’m not a religious man, but I respect others’ beliefs, and I am very proud of my niece for going through this rite of passage. The church at which the event was being hosted is a crystal cathedral. As beautiful as it may be, it is huge. A place like that filled to the brim with people is a little much for me when I’m depressed. I beat myself up for a good two weeks for not being able to attend such an important even in my niece’s life. I was even going to give her my bible from my first communion, but never got the chance to.

Being sick is hard in the family and friend department. I missed my nephew’s birth due to being in a treatment center. My best friend got married far away, but he had a wonderful dinner with both of their families and all of our friends to celebrate. I couldn’t make it. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Missing these things tends to wear down friendships to the point of ruining them. My family understands, but sometimes I wonder if they will remain compassionate throughout the years. It has come to the fact that I have very few friends left. I could always make more, but it is sad to see people go. And, more importantly, it hurts a lot to miss precious moments with my family. So, yes, I could be considered inconsistent in that regard.

It is not my fault though. I just get sick of playing the “I’m sick” card. Some days are great, and others are not. That is life. This is common in the mental illness journey, so remember, you are not alone! How does the saying go about life and the lemons, well, you know! One of my next posts will be about the “patient mentality”. I was going to write that one today, but this post came out instead.

How Depression Feels

(This is the translation of my Spanish exercise posted previously.)

Depression is like nightfall. The sun sets and the night comes with a cold that traps you. This night never ends and the cold always worsens. All you want is to feel the warmth, and see the rays of sunlight again, but the sun doesn’t shine. Everything is shrouded in darkness, and you never know what is hiding in the darkness. The mental demons torture you, and when you want to control them with the sword you have in your hand, the sword turns to straw. When you want to stab the demons you discover that they have no substance. You find yourself lost in your mind and the darkness with the cold that never ends. Time seems like it doesn’t exist.

After some time you start thinking that the sun will never shine again. You find yourself putting distance from your family and friends and you think you are alone. You recollect all the bad in your life, and forget the good. You feel like this depression was all you ever felt since birth and will feel until death. You feel that the happy moments in your life were few or never existed. When this starts to happen you feel like all of your suffering is your fault. You think your deserve the darkness, the cold, the torture, and the pain like a prize you have won.

When you can’t deal with the pain any more, you kill yourself. This is the sad reality of many people that suffer from depression. This is why it is important to educate yourself about mental illness.

Spanish Practice: Depression

La depresión es como cuando el día oscurece. El sol baja y la noche viene con un frio que te atrapa. Esa noche nunca se termina, y ese frio siempre empeora. Todo lo que quieres es sentir la calidez, y ver la claridad otra vez. Pero esa claridad nunca aparece. Todo se ve en oscuridad, y nunca sabes lo que está escondido en la noche. Los demonios de la mente te torturan, y cuando quieres dominarlos con la espada que tienes en tu mano, la espada se convierte en pajas. Cuando quieres darles puñaladas ves que no tienen forma. Te encuentras perdido en tu mente en la oscuridad con el frio que nunca falta. El tiempo se percibe como si no existiera.

Después de un rato paras de creer que la oscuridad aclarará. Encuentras que te has alejado de todos tus amigos y familia, y creés que estás solo. Te recuerdas de todo lo malo de tu vida, y te olvidas de todo lo es bueno. Vives creyendo que esta depresión era lo único que sentías desde que naciste, y que es lo único que vas a sentir hasta que mueras. Los momentos que has tenido de felicidad sientes que fueron pocos o no existieron. Cuando todo esto empieza a pasar, entonces empiezas a creér que todo el sufrimiento que sientes es tu culpa. La oscuridad, el frío, la tortura, el dolor, te creés que te lo mereces como un premio.

Cuando no puedes hacer frente el dolor, te matas. Esto es la triste realidad de muchas personas que viven con depresión. Por eso es muy importante educarse sobre la salud mental.

(I wrote this a few days ago to practice my Spanish. I wanted to put into words what depression feels like. I don’t know if I did a good job, but I tried my best. Thank you dad for proofreading and helping me get my words correct. The translation is also posted as How Depression Feels.)

Horror House

I want to share today my experience at a very bad acute care facility. I have to preface this by saying that not all acute care facilities are the same, some are very good, treating patients with respect and have incredible care. Unfortunately, here in Miami Florida, there aren’t as many good centers as there should be. Most centers, where I live, are underfunded, poorly staffed, and have incompetent doctors who really don’t care very much for their patients.

An acute care center is usually the first step in the journey of a person undergoing psychiatric treatment. The purpose of these places is to stabilize you and send you on your way. Often, they employ social workers that will help you get back on your feet. These social workers will help you in finding a place to live, asses your situation at home, and generally help you on where to go next. The next step in the treatment process usually is a treatment center where you stay for some months for intensive psychological and psychiatric help. Sometimes these treatment centers have outpatient services, so you don’t have to live there. I digress from my story.

One of the very many medications that I take is an antipsychotic. I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you what my doctor has told me. For bipolar patients’ antipsychotic medications help regulate your mood, and also help in controlling the manic end of the spectrum. Please don’t take my word for it, as I am not expert. If you want to learn more, please google. My antipsychotic caused a very dangerous condition called rhabdomyolysis. Rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short, is a condition that causes your muscles to deteriorate and dead muscle cells go into the bloodstream. The kidneys get attacked when all of these dead muscle cells go into it. You can find more about rhabdo here. The only symptom I experienced was extreme pain around the entire body. The pain was so bad that when my dad took me to urgent care he had to bend my legs for me because I refused to do so out of pain in order to get out of the car.

I went to a hospital, which I can’t mention it’s name, and they told me that I needed to be hospitalized in order to change my meds to stop the rhabdo. So starts my tale of horror. At first things were pretty much standard. I had to wait for a bed to open up. Once open I received my psychosocial assessment where they ask me my health and psychiatric history. Also, they ask what your primary complaint is and more relevant questions. They put me in a very dirty room with very dirty sheets. The bathroom was disgusting, and the shower head looked like it had mold growing on it. I brought a book and journal with me, as usual, to pass the time while the doctors figured out what was wrong with me. I expected a relative short stay since I didn’t come in for a psychiatric ailment. Boy was I wrong. They would go on to create a psychiatric ailment!

The next morning, I met the doctor that was assigned to me. She came in with about eight or nine residents in order to evaluate me. I felt like a specimen being used as a study subject more than someone who needed help. This doctor thought that my medication regiment was too complex, in other words that I took too many medications. The end result, from her analysis, is that I went from about nine medications to just one. This made me severely ill. I probably needed a small tweak in my meds, but instead I was denied a treatment that was developed and tailored for me through ten years of trial and error. So, I began to feel withdrawal and intense depression. I spend the better part of a week bed bound in a mental pain that was ten times worse than the rhabdomyolysis could ever give me. Actually, this was some of the worst anguish I had ever felt in my whole life. The usual procedure that psychiatric hospitals usually have is to call the psychiatrist caring for the patient, outside of the hospital, for advice. This is done so that the resident psychiatrist at the hospital has some idea how to properly treat the patient.

From being nervous and emotionally compromised I developed some intense gut issues. Meaning I had to go to the bathroom several times during the day. I got severe dehydration problems. This is where the fun began. I know myself, and I know the hospital routine, as this is not my first time in a psych hospital. I asked for some Gatorade, for the dehydration, they refused to give it to me. They gave me apple juice instead, which I gladfully took. I was losing water due to my bowel movements at an alarming rate. I was feeling very dizzy and weak.  I remember standing at the nursing station for fifteen to twenty minutes at a time being ignored until someone took notice and would give me a thimble of apple juice. When I wanted some cold water, to vary from the disgusting tap water in the bathroom, I would have to do the now typical fifteen minute to twenty-minute wait to get water. Mind you, I was very weak and to the point of almost falling down every time I stood there like a Dodo waiting.

I was treated like trash. I mean down right inhumanely. I would ask the staff questions just to be ignored. I’d ask to see a gastroenterologist for my problems, and it took three days for a doctor to see me. I remember handing in a sample and the attending nurse said, “Ohhhh, poopie.” I just couldn’t make this stuff up! No one checked up on me. It didn’t matter at the end I was mostly in bed suffering. I tried to call my family on the phone, but one of the two phones in the wing was broken and the other you couldn’t hear the call very well. In Florida, by law they have to have a perfectly working phone with a plaque on the wall with the number to report abuse. That plaque wasn’t there.

At night I made very good friends with the resident roaches. They would come in waves. The food served to us patients was disgusting, but more importantly, it was left out overnight outside each of our rooms. The common area was so disgustingly dirty, with surfaces dusty and sticky, that it made it impossible for any of us to be there. When I left there, I developed rashes and severe acne which had to be treated by a dermatologist. I don’t know if it was caused directly by the condition of the hospital or my nerves, but my skin was bad.

When my family would come visit, I would wake up from my daily slumber. They were treated like criminals entering prison. I understand the normal search and speech that is usually given to visitors, but they treated my family like they were trying to smuggle in drugs or something. It came to a point where my mom had to yell at the man doing the check because he wanted to inspect the wheelchair she was on! This process would have been better if they treated my family with respect. My dad visited me every day. One of the times he made a prize shot with his shoe at one of the pesky cockroaches. I would look forward for visiting hours every day so that I could see my sister, mom, dad, and uncle. I truly knew I was trapped in a horror house.

Finally, I lied my way out. I was discharged after two weeks. I don’t encourage lying your way out of a psychiatric hospital. With few exceptions, the doctors and staff are just trying to help you out. I just had the luck of ending up in a very bad place. If I would have had the option of calling the abuse number I wouldn’t have had to lie. I returned to my normal psychiatrist, we did some damage control, and I moved on with my life with a new mental trauma under my belt

I have to say this again. South Florida isn’t exactly a beacon for mental health, but I’ve also been in a hospital outside of this zone and was treated humanely and put into very sanitary conditions. Also, it has been several years since my last hospitalization so new centers or psych wings could have been opened since then. Moral of the story, do your research beforehand so you don’t have to suffer like my family and I did.

Being Mentally Ill in a Crazy World

I want to write a little about my journey through mental health land. First, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder about ten years ago. I have bipolar disorder; I am not bipolar. That’s like saying someone is asthma instead of someone having asthma. I know it seems like a little thing, but psychologically it makes a huge difference. Bipolar disorder is a chronic disease much like diabetes or viral diseases. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. It makes a person either depressed or manic in varying degrees. Mania can manifest in different ways, but can often include recklessness, grandiosity, ruminating thoughts, psychosis, delusions, among other things. Depression can range from one not wanting to do anything to suicide. Untreated bipolar disorder could put you in harm’s way or even cause death. People are severely ignorant about bipolar disorder or mental health in general.

A lot of people take Hollywood’s interpretation that all mental ill people are crazy or insane. I’ll tell you now, from experience, I haven’t met a single mentally ill person that fits that bill. If you have ever met a mentally ill person in life, if you can get over the stigma society has put on the subject, you will find that this person is a regular individual who is suffering from an illness. If you look into their eyes you will find a person underneath all of that mental torment, or even see through all of the weirdness that one can once perceive at face value. I have to say that, once upon a time, I was guilty of holding these unfair views that mentally ill people were a weird uncontrolled lot that were dangerous.

Not counting the mentally ill with substance abuse problems, also called dual diagnosis patients, the mentally ill who were violent (in this study bipolar and schizophrenic patients) were about 3.4% to 5.1% of the general population. The first night I ever spent at an acute care center, this is where mentally ill patients that are in crisis and need help go, was very frightening because of my expectations. What I came to find was a bunch of normal sick people that mostly kept to themselves. When we would come together to smoke or to eat meals, we would share notes about different treatments, and share war stories. There was a sense of comradery among us. We were all ill and suffering together.

Mental illness brings together people of all races, ideals, ages, and economic backgrounds. Also, the cruelty of people who don’t understand mental illness is air apparent. I’ve seen families abandon their teenagers. Also, I have seen those same teenagers lose their insurance benefits and end up on the street. One study shows that 33% of homeless people have an untreated severe mental illness. I have to admit, after seeing that, my greatest fear has been ending up on the street. I am very fortunate to have a family that has stood by and supported me in all of the hell I put them through and through all of my suffering.

I became ill suddenly and very uninformed, and my family was just as lost as I was in how to proceed and how to find the appropriate treatment for me. All the new terms, medications, doctors, and fear baffled all of us in the family. When I was going through the first six months since I first went into crisis, I was unable to make decisions for myself. Since I was over eighteen the doctors, by law, could only speak with me. I was in no condition to make decisions about my health, and honestly my family didn’t know a damn thing about any of the choices that they had. Thankfully my family worked with me and the doctors, and we became well informed very quickly in order to make it through those first six months.

I know this is just a small piece of my story. I will share more as time goes by. The whole purpose of this short story was to inspire people to re-think mental illness. Also, if you have a family member who has just been diagnosed with a mental illness, or you yourself are mentally ill, please have patience, be kind, and get informed. The more information you have the better, and remember you are never alone. There are great support groups for both us mentally ill people and for families who are just as scared and uninformed as my family was.

Resources

mentalhealth.org

nami.org

 

The Savage

I have been trying to culture myself. My father calls me el salvaje, the savage in Spanish, and I’m slowly trying to change that. If you know me in person you would know that I usually wear old clothes where the colors have faded, and holes have started to appear. My hair is mostly unkempt, and my beard looks like something out of The Hobbit. I usually don’t care how I look as long as I don’t smell! Mentally I jump from thing to thing trying to find beauty in the simplest of things. I have always enjoyed all types of music especially classical music. My studies have never formally taken me into the world of the finer cultural things like opera, ballet, performance art, etc. So, I decided it was time to delve in those waters.

The first thing I engaged in was opera. I thought opera was classical music with a singer singing the piece out front like Andrea Bocelli does, but I was taken by surprise completely. I conjured my magic crystal ball, YouTube, and looked up Carmen by Bizet. I found a production done by the Royal Opera House. I discovered that opera is like a play, but with beautiful singing. I watched most of Carmen, which had subtitles thankfully, and thoroughly enjoyed it! The classic Habanera sung by the meso-soprano was heavenly.

I was watching television and came across a Volvo commercial that had a wonderful soprano singing something that I thought was made by computers. With a thorough search on the internet I found that she was singing the Queen of the Night aria from The Magic Flute by Mozart. As I watched the aria on YouTube performed by various sopranos, I was shocked that what I was hearing was even possible to sing. I looked up the plot of The Magic Flute and discovered that it is a very esoteric mystical story! I want to watch the whole opera before speaking about the plot. I hope that in my lifetime I have the honor of watching this opera live. I continued to explore ballet, but that is a different tale for a different time.

I usually only read non-fiction texts that have to do with my spiritual studies, but I have started to add some fiction, or what people call the “classics,” to my studies. One day the title salvaje will be dropped, then I wonder what my father will call me next.