Adventures in Mental Illness: Part 10

Within a few hours of my first ECT treatment I picked up a book for the first time in over a year and started reading. I’d always loved books but for the past year I’d been too depressed to read. I’d lost interest in it and I did not have the mental energy or the concentration level that reading would require. Even when I’d spent long periods of time in solitary confinement in mental hospitals and treatment centers, when I’d had nothing to do, I had not read anything.

The fact that I was reading now was seen as a very good sign. A few days after I started reading the book I finished it and it was time for my next ECT treatment. By then I was showing additional signs of improvement. I was talking more and I was laughing more. My sense of humor seemed to have returned along with my desire to read. When I filled out the depression survey before my next treatment I was able to honestly rate the extent to which I’d been experiencing certain depression symptoms as lower on the scale than I’d rated them at my last appointment.

As I got more ECT treatments, I became more engaged in conversation and with life in general. I’d always had a loving relationship with my mother but lately I had become aggressive and defiant towards her. With ECT the lovingness returned and the aggression decreased. For a while my mother had suggested taking courses at the local university and working towards finishing my degree but I had adamantly refused. A few weeks after beginning my ECT treatments I agreed to return to school.

One of the most prominent and worrisome side effects of ECT is memory loss. One of the first courses I took when I went back to school was Learning and Memory. I got an A in it. I have always had an exceptionally good memory. Many people are amazed by the things I’m able to remember, some are amused by it and a few are even creeped out by it. I think I honed a good memory from an early age as a survival skill to compensate for all the deficits I had. My good memory has always been a source of pride for me so I was not thrilled at the prospect of losing it.

Luckily ECT did not cause me to lose my memory in any significant way.  I have lost a lot of memories for the things that happened in the year or so before I had ECT treatment but who knows if that’s the effect of ECT, trauma, depression or some combination of the three. Regardless, I do not think I am any worse off for not having those memories. In fact, a lot of  the things that happened during that time period were pretty awful, so I’m probably better off having no memory of it.

I started out having ECT three times a week and eventually tapered down to maintenance ECT once a month or so. When I went long periods of time without ECT I’d start to slip in to moodiness and aggression. Once I got the ECT my mood and behavior would improve.

The ECT procedure itself always went smoothly and was always painless for me. The preparations I had to undergo to get the ECT caused me more problems than the ECT itself did. If you’re a man you may have an easier time preparing for ECT than if you’re a woman because you will not have to take a urine pregnancy test. There was literally no chance that I was pregnant (if I were we’d be looking at the second messiah) but the doctors weren’t going to take my word for it. I’m not very good at peeing in a cup on command and there were times when I just couldn’t do it. Usually when that happened the doctors would waive the pregnancy test requirement and proceed with the ECT but on at least one occasion they canceled my treatment after I failed to pee in a cup.  I have to admit I was a little irritated by that, especially when I found out that ECT is considered safe during pregnancy.

When I started taking afternoon classes, my schedule did not match up with the ECT schedule at the hospital I was going to so I had to switch to a different hospital. The nurses at this hospital had trouble sticking my veins in order to insert the IV in so I had to have a port inserted in my chest.  I still have a crescent moon shaped scar on my chest from that port. It’s visible whenever I take my clothes off, whenever I wear a low cut shirt or a bathing suit. It’s not the most attractive thing and sometimes I wish it wasn’t there but there’s another part of me that kind of likes it. It’s like a battle wound from a difficult period of my life that I survived.

I consider both the scar and the having to pee in cups to be relatively minor issues.  They were a small price to pay in exchange for everything that ECT gave me. I say that ECT  shocked some sense in to me and my mom says it caused a switch to go off for me (puns intended.) We regret that we did not agree to it when it was first suggested but considering all the negative opinions, the fear, the stereotypes and stigma there is surrounding it we can hardly be blamed for that.

Many consider ECT to be barbaric but there was nothing barbaric about the ECT I got. I consider some of the ways in which I was treated at the residential facilities and mental hospitals I was in to be much more barbaric than my ECT treatments.

It has now been a few years since I’ve undergone ECT. I’d like to tell you that ECT completely cured my depression, that I was never depressed again and that I lived happily ever after but that wouldn’t be the truth. I did continue to be depressed after I had ECT but my depression has been much less severe. I read somewhere that ECT tends to be very effective at alleviating symptoms of depression such as loss of energy, appetite and interest in hobbies but not as effective at alleviating symptoms such as guilt and low self esteem. That has certainly been the case for me. I struggled with guilt and low self esteem for years after I had ECT and I continue to struggle with it to this day.

It is said that many people who experience relief from depression as a result of ECT eventually relapse. Although I have struggled with depression since getting ECT, I do not consider myself to have relapsed. I never returned to that all encompassing, mind numbing, zombie-like state of depression I was in before I had ECT and I hope I never do return to that state.

ECT gave me back my ability to take pleasure in the simple things in life-things like reading a good book, having an interesting conversation with a loved one or taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful day. It’s those simple things in life that provide me with joy and relief when I feel depressed, overwhelmed and hopeless. It’s the joy I am able to take in the simple things that prevents me from being suicidal.  When the ‘big things’ in my life are not going well and are stressing me out, the little things comfort me and I realize that some of the little things are actually the big things.

Based on my experience with ECT, I would recommend it to people who are suffering from severe treatment resistant depression but I realize that my experience with ECT is not everyone’s experience with it. I’ve talked to other people who have undergone ECT.  Some, like me, experienced a lot of positive results and minimal negative side effects. They are very glad they underwent ECT. Some people experienced some severe negative side effects but also experienced a lot of positive results. They consider ECT to have been worth it. Some experienced a lot of negative side effects and little or no improvement. They regret undergoing ECT.

I hope that in sharing my story on this blog I am encouraging people who will benefit from ECT to try it but I do also worry that this blog could push the kind of people who will experience severe negative side effects and no improvement as a result of ECT to try it. There’s no way of knowing for sure how you will react to ECT until you try it. You just have to decide for yourself if you consider it to be worth the risk.

If someone has had a negative experience with ECT it’s fine for them to publicly talk about that experience as long a they can acknowledge that their experience with ECT is not everyone’s experience with it and that some people have benefited from it. However, when people who have no experience with ECT and no real knowledge of what it actually entails decide to publicly spout off  about how horrible and barbaric it is, that makes me angry. It makes me angry when they spread lies and misinformation about ECT, when they base their opinions on it off of stereotypes that are perpetuated in the media, when they judge others for undergoing ECT or suggesting that their loved ones undergo it, when they call for the procedure to be banned.

I feel especially angry when the people who choose to voice such ignorant, misinformed opinions are people who have never experienced severe depression themselves. ECT is not anyone’s first choice but sometimes it is literally a choice between life and death, between having a decent quality of life and having a miserable shell of a life.

These days I’m in a much better place emotionally than I ever would have thought possible at the time I was locked in the back ward of a mental hospital, alone and miserable. I truly thought my life was essentially over then, that I would be miserable for the rest of my days, that I would never experience joy again. I’m so glad that has turned out not to be the case. I credit ECT for getting me to the point where I could experience  joy again.  While some of the changes I’ve made in my life are not a direct result of ECT, they may not have happened if ECT had not given me the initial kickstart that jolted me back from the land of the dead.

I will forever be grateful that ECT was a treatment that was available to me, a treatment informed professionals were able to guide me through, a treatment with minimal negative consequences for me and significant positive results, a treatment that worked for me, a treatment that changed my life for the better.

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Adventures in Mental Illness: Part 9

Before I got my first ECT treatment, I was instructed not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours beforehand. When the time for my treatment arrived I was driven to the ECT suite of the mental hospital I’d first stayed in at the beginning of this mental illness saga. I filled out a survey about my depression symptoms and I signed a waiver acknowledging the risks of ECT including confusion, memory loss, nausea, headache and jaw pain.

Once I had filled out the paper work I was given an ID bracelet and instructed to pee in a cup. Then I was taken to a bed and instructed to lay down. My bed was surrounded by curtains on both sides and on one side was the ECT machine. Nurses placed electrodes on my head and an IV in my arm. The nurses who attended to me were kind, helpful and gentle. They in no way resembled Nurse Ratched (the evil nurse from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.)

Once the nurses had set me up a doctor came over to my bed. He told me his name and introduced himself as the anesthesiologist who would be performing the ECT. He said he was going to administer the anesthesia through the IV and I would be knocked out shortly afterwards. He asked me to state my name and the procedure I was undergoing. I did so. The nurses gave the all clear to begin the procedure. I felt a brief sting as the anesthesia entered my veins followed by a woozy floating feeling that lasted for a few seconds and then I was out.

I woke up a few minutes later. I experienced no confusion and no pain. I knew exactly where I was and what had happened. Physically I felt fine. A nurse came over and asked me how I was doing. She then helped me off the bed and guided me to the waiting room. In the waiting room I was treated to a selection of snacks and juices

When my mother came to pick me up she spoke to me and to the doctors. We acknowledged that so far the procedure had gone well with no complications. I was told to take it easy for the rest of the day and to call them if I started experiencing any serious side effects. They said it might take a while to see results and that if I didn’t see results from this unilateral ECT treatment they could try bilateral ECT. Unilateral ECT means inducing seizures in one hemisphere of the brain, bilateral means inducing seizures in both hemispheres of the brain. Bilateral ECT carries a greater risk of side effects.

As we got in to the car, my mother and I were both relieved that I had survived my first ECT treatment and that it had been painless. Now we just had to wait and hope that it would produce positive results.

Motherhood and Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was on Sunday. It was mostly a joyous occasion for me because I am truly blessed and lucky in the mother department. On Facebook I said “Happy Mother’s Day  to my kindred spirit, my tireless advocate, the love of my life, the best mother and friend a girl could possibly ask for” and I meant every word of it.

I also posted a collection of pictures of my mom and I through the years. A friend from High School recognized the picture of me hugging my mom as being from the Senior Breakfast our program had before I graduated. I read a letter to my my mom at that breakfast that began with “I’ve learned some hard lessons in life but the hardest lesson I’ve learned is that people let you down. Thankfully I have a person in my life who I know will never let me down. That person is you.” It ended with “I could not ask for a better mother” (along with lots of tears.)

The day before Mother’s Day I posted a video of an autistic man thanking his mother for everything she’s done for him. Motherhood in general is challenging and requires a lot of dedication but raising a child on the autism spectrum (or a child who has any kind of serious disability or illness) is a whole different ballgame. It means an endless litany of doctor’s appointments, therapy appointments and IEP meetings. It means constantly struggling to figure out what is wrong with your child and what you can do to help them.  It means constantly worrying about your child, constantly advocating for them, constantly having to help them to do the things they cannot do for themselves. My mother has truly risen to the challenge of raising a special needs child, has truly gone above and beyond the call of duty.

The parent of a typical child can usually expect to raise that child until about age 18, then to let them go to live their own life and take care of themselves. However, when you have a special needs child, you sometimes have to take care of them well past the age of 18. Sometimes you have to take care of them your entire life and then figure out who will take care of them after you die.

In some respects being dependent on my mother as an adult is painful and humiliating for me but if I have to be dependent on someone, there’s no one I’d rather be dependent on than my mother. My life has been pretty hard but I cannot begin to imagine how much harder it would be if I did not have such a wonderful, supportive mother. I would really be up shit’s creek without her. Obviously I would never be alive in the first place if I didn’t have a mother but if I did not have a mother as wonderful and supportive as mine I’m not sure I would still be alive today and if I was it would probably only be in the technical sense of the term.

The card I gave to my mother said something about how a mother friend is the best kind of friend. I know there are a some people who love their mothers very much but who do not consider them to be a friend. I, however, have always considered my mom to be my best friend. I get judged a lot for living with my mom and am often told that I should be living on my own but independence issues aside, I enjoy living with my best friend.

At first I wasn’t sure what to get my mother as a gift. My brother had the flowers covered and I knew that if I got her chocolate I’d just end up eating it myself. I asked her what she wanted. Eventually she decided she wanted a notebook so I got her a nice notebook from Barnes& Noble and some pens to go along with it. You can never have too many pens because when it comes to objects that you’re always losing and can never find when you need them, pens are rivaled only by socks.

It was a fun day. Aside from a brief torrential downpour  (Mother Nature is a mother who can be a real bitch)  the weather was lovely. We even got a rainbow. I got a cute haircut from an awesome hairdresser. We had dinner at a friend’s house where we ate good food and played with a menagerie of cute pets.

Yet my joy on Mother’s Day was tempered by my pain and the pain I knew others were experiencing. A few days before Mothers’ Day I edited a blog for a friend about how hard Mother’s Day is when you’ve lost a child. The loss of a child is one of the many reasons Mother’s Day might be hard for someone. They might have lost their mother, they might have a strained or nonexistent relationship with their mother or child, they might be struggling with infertility, etc.

One of the points raised in the blog was that looking at social media can be hard for some people on Mother’s Day. I knew that I was going to celebrate my mother on social media on Mother’s Day but before I did that I posted a status acknowledging those who were struggling. I saw other statuses as well as articles and memes acknowledging those who were having a hard time on Mother’s Day.

A friend posted a status asking why Facebook was filled with stuff asking others to be mindful of those who are struggling on Mother’s Day and not to celebrate too hard lest you upset someone else but you don’t see things like that on social media on Fathers’ Day.

I and other people responded by expressing the sentiment that it’s probably because motherhood and Mother’s Day are generally seen as being a ‘bigger deal’ than fatherhood and Father’s Day.  Motherhood is seen as being a more essential part of a woman’s identity than fatherhood of a man’s identity. Having a crappy mother is seen as being more traumatic than having a crappy father.  I don’t think those ideas are necessarily right, fair or accurate but they are certainly widely believed and perpetuated both directly and indirectly.

It was also pointed out that acknowledging and being mindful of those who are suffering on Mother’s Day doesn’t necessarily mean you should temper your own celebration of it. The analogy was made that Christmas is hard for many people and it’s nice to reach out those who are suffering during the holidays but no one is expected to take down their Christmas tree or refrain from sending holiday cards because of it.

It’s not an all or nothing thing either. Someone could be celebrating their mother but grieving over their children or lack thereof. I’m in that boat myself. I’ve never tried to have children and I don’t actually want children. When I can’t take care of myself attempting to take care of children would be a terrible idea and I imagine I’d find parenting to be unbearably stressful. Autism does not preclude everyone from having children-there are plenty of people on the autism spectrum who are great parents. However, I have decided that the issues I have as result of being on the spectrum preclude me from having children.

What I do desperately want is to be the kind of person who could handle having children. I love children and if I did not have the autism spectrum related issues that I have I would absolutely want to have children. I think it is possible to lead a fulfilling life without having children but I also think motherhood is a rewarding (although challenging and sometimes heartbreaking) experience like no other. It makes me sad that I will never get to have that experience.

While I want to be the kind of person who can handle having children, I do not want to be the kind of person who can’t handle hearing other people talk about their children because it fills me with too much jealousy and bitterness. Luckily that’s not something I struggle with much. I feel genuine joy when pregnancies and births are announced, when I see pictures of children, when I interact with them, when I hear about the cute things they’ve said and the accomplishments they’ve made. I can empathize with my friends when they talk about how hard it is to be a mother even if I’m struggling with the opposite problem.

I hope everyone found something to celebrate this Mother’s Day. If Mother’s Day brought you pain and sorrow may you find comfort and peace.

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I knew this was going to happen

Someone in my real life got angry about something I wrote in this blog. I changed the name I used in that blog post but I have a feeling that’s not going to be good enough for him. What can I do? I feel very strongly about being open and honest in this blog and not censoring myself. I feel very strongly that I do not need anyone’s permission or approval to write about them.

This blog is meant to be about my own personal experiences but no (wo)man is an island. My life is affected by the people in it and I can’t tell my own story without telling some of their story as well. I think one should be considerate of other peoples’ feelings and safety. I wouldn’t want to post anything that would cause someone intense distress or put them in danger. But you know what? I’ve had experiences in life that have caused me distress, that have jeopardized my physical and emotional safety. Some of those experiences occurred as a result of the people who object to my blog.

It is therapeutic to me to write about those experiences. I know I could just make my writing private but sharing my writing with others is a big part of what makes it so therapeutic. The things I went through were hard and took a toll on me emotionally but they were made infinitely harder by the shame I felt over them. I was so ashamed of the things I’d done, the things I’d been through, that I wouldn’t tell anybody about them. I was so ashamed of myself that I wouldn’t even talk to or associate with people, I cut myself off from my friends. Shame has been such a destructive force in my life and it feels really good to now be so unashamed that I’m willing to share some of my deepest darkest secrets on the internet for the whole world to see.

It’s not just about me either. I hope that in sharing my experiences I am helping other people.  I hope I am letting other people who have struggled with similar issues know that they are not alone, that they do not need to be ashamed, that they do not need to be afraid to share their own experiences.

Writing has given me a sense of purpose in a life that was lacking purpose. It’s become a hobby of mine and I’d like to turn it in to a career. Writing is an art. If you’re always worried about hurting someone’s feelings and offending them through your writing, your writing will suffer for it. I went to a book talk a few months ago in which someone in the audience expressed that fear and the author giving the talk ripped in to her for it.

Situations like this make me wish I was better at writing fiction but even fiction tends to be based on real life experiences.

A Florida Vacation: Key West

Let me reveal that in the process of writing this blog I’ve discovered that my memory is not as good as I thought it was. I had it in my head that the events of my Florida vacation happened in a certain order but when I looked back on the dates of my vacation pictures I discovered that the events happened in a different order than I remembered. Now I think I’ve got the correct order of events sorted out but be aware that some of the names in this blog have been altered intentionally and the order of some of the events may have been altered unintentionally.

Let me also reveal something about my father’s relationship with food and money. I’m not going to say my father is a cheapskate because he’s really not. He spends money on luxurious vacations and he’s taken us out to eat at some really fine restaurants. Yet my father knows the value of frugality and sometimes he’s frugal to an extent that some might consider to be excessive.

For context let me share a story from a previous family vacation. When my father was still married to my mother we went on a vacation to Arizona. For the first half of the vacation we went out to eat at restaurants. From these restaurants my father insisted on saving all the packets of butter, jam and crackers as well as the napkins, styrofoam cups and plastic utensils.  By the time we checked in at a fancy hotel on the way to The Grand Canyon, my father decided it was no longer necessary for us to spend money on restaurants since we could eat the leftovers he’d accumulated from restaurants in our hotel room. When my mother told him that butter, jam and crackers did not constitute an acceptable meal, my father replied “What are you talking about? Of course it’s an acceptable meal, there are people in this world who would love to have a meal like this!”

“Maybe if they were living in an impoverished village in rural Africa but we are not living there!” my mother snapped. She then informed my father that she was taking my brother and me out to eat at a restaurant. At that point my father busted out his crackers, butter and jam and exclaimed “Bon Appetit, Mircea!”

So it was that as we left Fort Lauderdale I could not persuade my father to throw out a days old box of donuts and thus I had to deal with the frosting that melted near my seat in the humid car. So it was that I could not persuade my father to let go of the leftover fish from his meal at the seafood restaurant and thus Gabrielle did not appreciate the fishy scent one of her outfits took on when it ended up getting tossed in next to my father’s uneaten meal a few days later.

The longer the vacation went on, the harder it became to convince my father to eat meals at restaurants. I often had to settle for ice cream or key lime pie. I can’t complain much though because the key lime pie in Key West is delicious. On one occasion when Id’d convinced my father to stop for ice cream he and Gabrielle had no interest in joining me so they waited for me in the car as I went in to the ice cream shop. I have no sense of direction so when I exited the shop, I walked down the wrong road. I was confused when I couldn’t find the car anywhere and I realized I was lost. Thank goodness for cell phones.

When I returned from my Florida vacation someone asked me what my favorite part of it was. I told them that Key West was my favorite part. “Not Disney World?” they asked in surprise. Nope. If you’ve read my blogs about the Disney World portion of our trip you’ll know that Disney World isn’t that much fun when you’re there with three people who hate Disney World. My father and Gabrielle both seemed to really like Key West and I liked it as well so it was a much more pleasant experience.

Key West has a lot to offer. There are points of historical interest, sites of natural beauty and a vibrant nightlife scene. The first day we were in Key West we booked a boating expedition that included dolphin watching, snorkeling and sunset viewing. The woman who booked the reservations asked me how old I was. On the last vacation I went on with my father a woman asked how old I was. When I told her her mouth dropped open in shock and she suggested I was mistaken about my own age. Wanting to avoid a similar situation, I just said to the woman in Key West “A lot older than I look. She then asked if I was over 21. I assured her that I was but I wasn’t going to say how much older.

When we’d been on the dolphin watch boat for about half an hour and hadn’t seen any dolphins I was beginning to fear that we weren’t going to see any but eventually we came upon the dolphin hot spot where we saw a bunch of dolphins that put on a good show for us. After we said goodbye to the dolphins there was snorkeling. Snorkeling was physically uncomfortable for me but I did get some nice views of the aquatic life underneath the water’s surface. Then we saw the sun setting over the water, which was a beautiful sight. The tour guide told us that the dumbest question she gets asked is “How many sunset tours do you do each day?”

As soon as I found out about The Key West Butterfly Garden I wanted to go there. When we first tried to go there we ended up on the opposite side of town from it and then we had trouble finding parking but eventually we got there. It wasn’t as big as I was expecting it to be but it was beautiful and enchanting. In addition to the beautiful butterflies, there were beautiful flowers, birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Several times during the vacation my father told me not to post pictures of him on Facebook and threatened to never take me on vacation again if I did. Hopefully he won’t follow through on those threats because when he tried taking a picture of me in front of the butterfly garden he accidentally took a picture of himself and I couldn’t resist posting his accidental selfie on Facebook. When he fell asleep in the hotel room with a butterfly sticker on his hat, I couldn’t help but take a picture. When Gabrielle saw the picture on Facebook she laughed hysterically. My father was not as amused.

I love nature and animals so I appreciate all nature sites. Historical sites, on the other hand, tend to be hit or miss with me. I enjoyed the Tennessee Williams museum and the Ernest Hemingway house because they combined history with literature, which I also love. The Ernest Hemingway house also catered to my love of animals, as it’s home to a family of six -toed cats. I also liked Fort Zachary Taylor Historic Park because it had nice beaches and cool old structures. I would have liked to have spent more time exploring the fort but we got kicked out when the park closed.

My dad enjoyed the Harry Truman house but I was not so fond of it. That’s fine because I liked the lighthouse, which my father and Gabrielle weren’t interested in. They did some shopping while I ascended the stairs of the lighthouse until I reached the top and was rewarded with a nice view.

I’m not much of a party animal and I had no interest in participating in the nightlife that’s one of the selling points of Key West but it was interesting to observe from afar. I did see some things in Key West that were kind of tacky but nothing so far out of the bounds of good taste as to be horrifying. I got a kick out of the dessert restaurant called Better Than Sex. Honestly the most offensive thing I saw in Key West was the guy who was wearing a Trump/Pence hat and unfortunately that’s something that’s not exclusive to Key West by any means.

The last night we were in Key West I persuaded my father to take us out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I was horrified when I saw dolphin on the menu but the waitress assured me it was a term for the fish mahi mahi and they weren’t grilling Flipper, as that would be quite illegal. I don’t remember exactly what I had for dinner but I remember that I drank pink lemonade and that my dish contained peas. I remember this because in the middle of the meal I started to feel really sick. I ignored it and hoped it would pass but by the time I went to the restaurant bathroom I was feeling awful. I retched over the toilet and unleashed a torrent of pink vomit with chunks of green in it. When I told my father I’d gotten sick he told me it was my own fault since I insisted on eating three meals a day and he extolled the benefits of fasting.

The next morning before we left Key West we stopped at the drug store to stock up on the supplies we’d need for the next leg of our journey. My supplies included anti-nausea medication and temporary filling to replace the filling I’d lost in Fort Lauderdale (which I forgot to mention in the Fort Lauderdale blog.)  When we exited the drug store we were greeted by chickens in the parking lot. That was another thing I loved about Key West.  How could you not love a city that has chickens in front of its drug store? My love of chickens stems from my childhood memories of keeping chickens under the trampoline at my father’s house. Don’t ask. That’s a whole other blog in itself.

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Book and movies re-imagined in the Trump era

Dave Astor of the blog Dave Astor on Literature recently wrote a blog post in which he imagined how classic literature titles could reflect what’s going on in this disruptive Trump era.  He asked readers to come up with their own ideas in the comments section. I came up with a list of books and I further expanded it to include movies:

The Idiot: The biography of Donald Trump

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The story of the 2016 election

Much Ado about Nothing: The investigations in to Hillary’s alleged crimes

The Importance of Being Earnest: The self help book Trump really needs to read

Breakfast at Tiffany’s : The story of Trump’s other daughter

Of Human Bondage: The story of what went on in those Russian hotel rooms

A Clockwork Orange: Trump’s guide to skin care

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves: The aftermath of the 2016 election

A Visit from the Goon Squad: Trump appoints his cabinet

Little Women: The makeup of Trump’s cabinet

The Vagina Monologues: Grab ’em by the pussy

Never Let Me Go: A plea from Obama

Hard Times: The state of the economy under Trump

The Awakening: How Trump voters finally realized they’d made a horrible mistake

Atonement: Is it even possible for Donald Trump?

Dumb and Dumber: The story of Donald Trump and Mike Pence

Beauty and the Beast: The marriage of Donald and Melania

True Lies: Alternative Facts

Cruel Intentions: The story of how Trump bullied, threatened and humiliated everyone who disagreed with him.

Dangerous Liasons: Trump and Putin

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: The Republican party

A Few Good Men: What the Republican party desperately needs

Despicable Me: Trump’s moment of self awareness

Girl, Interrupted: Elizabeth Warren takes the senate floor

Can’t Hardly Wait: Counting down the days until Trump leaves office

Half Baked: Trump’s plans for the presidency

Three Men and a Baby: From Clinton to Trump

Dazed and Confused: The night of November 8, 2016

Apocalypse Now: November 9, 2016

Fools Rush In: January 20, 2017

Some Like It Hot: Why global warming is no bigly deal by Donald J. Trump

Clueless: Those who think President Trump is a good idea

The Human Centipede: Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the other spineless creatures of the GOP with their heads up asses.

I Know What You Did Last Summer: We’re not letting this Russia thing go, Donald.

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Adventures in Mental Illness: Part 8

The days, weeks and months following my release from Payne Whitney are even more of a blur to me than the time I spent in the hospital is. I remember very little about that time period. I was still on anti-psychotics, I was still a zombie and I was still miserable.

Years after I was released from Payne Whitney I expressed interest in volunteering at a local preschool for disadvantaged children. My mother told me I might not be welcome there. Shortly after I was released from Payne Whitney she had sent me to volunteer there in an effort to get me out of the terrible funk I was in. I was asked not to come back because I was behaving inappropriately and ignoring the children. I had no memory of this. I’m sure it’s one of many things that occurred during that time period that I have no memory of.

In the years that followed Payne Whitney I underwent many different treatments for my depression. There were the conventional medication and therapy treatments as well as some more unconventional treatments. There was the Ketamine nasal spray that sent me on a cool ( and totally legal) drug trip but left a very unpleasant taste in my throat and did nothing to alleviate my depression. There was the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which filled my ears and head with very unpleasant noises and vibrations without alleviating my depression and without even giving me the benefit of a psychedelic trip. There was the Dialectical Behavioral Therapy that may have had some value but put me in a group situation that I just wasn’t ready for or comfortable with at the time and that gave me a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder that was about as accurate as my Schizoafffective disorder diagnosis.

A few months after I was released from Payne Whitney I saw a new psychiatrist named Dr. Deerberry. Dr. Deerberry was an elderly man and in all honesty he was at a point in his life when he should probably be considering retirement. He was rather scatterbrained, frequently forgetting scheduled appointments and my name. Yet in many respects Dr. Deerberry still had his wits about him and was a very good psychiatrist.  Ultimately he ended up being very helpful to me. You might even say he saved my life.

Dr. Deerberry was skeptical of my Schizoaffective Disorder diagnosis. He said “If this is Schizoaffective Disorder, it’s much more affective than it is schizo.” He took me off the antipsychotic medications and he recommended an alternative treatment called electronconvulsive therapy (ECT, also known as shock therapy.)

You may recall my mention of ECT in Episode 2 of this mental illness saga but since it’s been a while let me refresh your memory.  ECT is a procedure done under anesthesia in which electric currents are sent in to the brain in order to trigger a seizure. It has a history of being used abusively and without the patient’s consent. It potentially has some serious negative side effects including memory loss.

If that sounds scary to you, you’re not alone in feeling that way. ECT is a widely feared, highly controversial procedure with a heavy stigma attached to it. Dangerous, barbaric and inhumane are words that are frequently used to describe it. There are groups of people who advocate to have it banned.  Its portrayal in fiction and in the media is overwhelmingly negative.

It was first suggested as a treatment for me when I was put in a mental hospital in New Jersey after I withdrew from school in Florida.  My mother did not want it done to me then because she was afraid and I wasn’t interested in it either. When it was suggested again by Dr. Deerberry my mom still had her hesitations but we were running out of other options. I was in a very bad state and none of the treatments were helping.  We were assured that despite the bad rap ECT has, for the most part it is safe and it is often effective in alleviating treatment resistant depression. We had reached a point where the risks associated with me remaining in the state that I was in seemed greater than the risks associated with ECT. My mom said she wanted me to try it.

As for me, I’d seen One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Requiem For a Dream, which depict ECT in a very scary and negative light but I knew that fiction doesn’t always reflect reality and that ECT has come a long way since the days of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. When I was in high school a classmate of mine underwent ECT. I hadn’t thought that what was being done to her was cruel or barbaric but I had thought that it was sad that she was in such a bad state that doctors were resorting to such drastic measures to help her. I never imagined that some day I would be in such a state.

Clearly I was in such a state now though and had been for some time. I had little hope that ECT would work for me because I didn’t believe anything could help me at that point but it seemed worth giving a try.  The potential negative side effects didn’t bother me because at that point I didn’t care much about my memory or my health and it seemed unlikely that it would produce side effects that were any worse than the things I’d experienced in the last year or so. I agreed to it.

 

A Florida Vacation: Fort Lauderdale

The next day we checked out of our hotel, said goodbye to my brother and prepared for our journey to Fort Lauderdale. My father asked the concierge about the route to Fort Lauderdale that would take us through the small rural Florida towns. The concierge replied that no one had ever asked him about taking that route and that it was significantly longer than the other route but my father really wanted to show Gabrielle “Trump Country.”

I told my father that I didn’t want to spend an extra two hours in the car just so he could mock poor people and that furthermore he had no idea how anyone in those counties voted, he was just making assumptions based on stereotypes. Yet my father insisted that he was not mocking poor people and damn it this was his vacation too so he deserved to see Trump country!

Since we knew this was going to a be a long car ride we stocked up on food from the drug store, mostly consisting of nutritious snacks such as donuts, Oreos and Pringles.  I slept for the first hour or two of the car ride and I woke up with cramps in my butt cheeks so I asked if we could stop somewhere and stretch our legs. At a gas station my father asked an attendant to recommend an interesting place for us to stop and he recommended a town called Lake Placid.

This was not the Lake Placid on which that horror movie was based. It was a small, rustic town covered in colorful, interesting murals. It also has a real, live, clown school. Even though I’m scared of clowns, I enjoyed seeing the clown school as well as the murals and I took lots of pictures. An hour or two later we made a stop at a nature park at which I got to see a live raccoon in broad daylight and an hour or two after that we arrived at our hotel. We spent some time at the beach and then returned to the hotel room to watch the Oscars, which I found rather boring until that clusterfuck at the end.

In the morning  we went on a boat tour on which we were shown the waterfront properties of the rich and famous. I try not to feel jealous of the wealth and privilege of others because I know I come from wealth and privilege myself but when I saw those mansions I couldn’t help but feel jealous. On that boat ride I also saw my first wild iguana. I hadn’t even known there were wild iguanas in Florida. Apparently they are descended from pets that were released.

Our family friends Carl and Elaine have a condo near Fort Lauderdale and had expressed interest in getting together with us when we were there so I called them and made plans for that night. My father told Gabrielle that he had known Carl and Elaine for ten years. I had to laugh at that because I’ve known Carl and Elaine my whole life and my father knew them before I was born. I have noticed a tendency in people once they reach a certain age to think that anything that happened a long time ago happened about ten years ago, never any longer ago than that.

We met Carl and Elaine as well as their adorable dog Zoe at their condo at around 7. When we told them we were going to Miami and Key West they told us they didn’t like either of those places- Key West was tacky and full of loud, drunk, obnoxious people and it was unsafe to walk the streets of Miami at night, as there was a good chance you would get mugged. I saw Gabrielle’s eyes grow wide with alarm. I just hoped we would enjoy Miami and Key West more than Carl and Elaine did. I didn’t think my father and Gabrielle could possibly dislike those places as much as they disliked Disney World.

Once it became clear to Carl and Elaine that we had not eaten dinner and were hungry we headed over to a diner where we reminisced and had a lively conversation. There was much laughter as well as a few tears. When we were done eating we had a waiter take a picture of the five of us. I captioned it “Here’s to 10 years of friendship-or 35!” Elaine said “35 years feels like 10 years when you’re having fun-and we did.”

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Adventures in Mental Illness: Part 7

The doctors at Payne Whitney ended up diagnosing me with Schizoaffective Disorder. Schizoaffective Disorder is ‘a mental disorder in which a person experiences a combination of schizophrenia symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions, and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania’ (Mayo Clinic). I think that was a pretty silly diagnosis for them to give me considering my reality testing was perfect and some of the ‘psychotic’ symptoms they were observing could be accounted for by my developmental disability but I guess they felt they had to settle on a diagnosis and Schizoaffective Disorder was the best they could come up with.

Mental illness on its own can be hard enough to understand and autism spectrum disorder on its own can be hard enough to understand. Put the two of them together and people are often completely baffled even though it is common for the two to go hand in hand. The fact that the doctors were so convinced that I was experiencing hallucinations and delusions convinced me that they did not understand me, although I could hardly blame them for not understanding me when I didn’t even understand me ( I may have expressed those thoughts in previous episodes of this mental illness saga but now that we’re on episode 7 it’s hard for me to keep track of what I’ve said and I feel like they’re thoughts that are worth repeating anyway.)

Years later a friend asked me if I found my stay at Payne Whitney to be helpful. I think it was helpful to me only in the sense that it was a holding zone. Since it was clear that the doctors there could not understand me I certainly didn’t think they could help me.  They were not giving the kind of help I needed and I was not in a frame of mind in which I was receptive to help so there wasn’t much hope of me making progress.

As I said, I don’t remember much of anything that happened while I was there so it’s possible there were individual therapy sessions in which caring therapists tried to get to the heart of my issues and my mind just has no record of it, but I get the impression the doctors spent a lot more time talking about me than talking to me. I got the impression that I was more a patient/case study to them than a human being they cared about. For me and I’m sure for many others as well knowing that the person who’s assigned to help you really cares about you is the first and most important component necessary for healing.

I suppose it’s silly and unrealistic of me to expect a warm, caring atmosphere in a mental hospital but some mental hospitals are better than others. Some mental hospitals do provide individual therapy with caring professionals and encourage the loved ones who visit the mental patients to hug and touch them.There may have been good reasons behind Payne Whitney’s no touching policy but I really have to question the wisdom of enforcing such a policy. Hugs and loving touch have been proven to be beneficial for mental health and a source of comfort to those who are suffering.  Being deprived of loving touch has been proven to be detrimental to one’s mental health. I do realize that there’s no one size fits all rule and that some people are bothered by being touched but it seems a shame to have a blanket policy that’s harmful to the many people who want and need to be touched.

Another thing I have no memory of is ever going outside. Again, it’s possible it did happen and it’s possible it wasn’t feasible to let me outside but being deprived of fresh air cannot be good for the mind, body or soul.

I also have to question the wisdom of giving me antipsyschotics. I was being given a potent drug with adverse side effects intended to treat a disorder I did not actually have. I’m not going to jump on the “Big pharma is evil and destroying peoples’ minds and bodies for the sake of profit” bandwagon because I think psychotropic medication has helped a lot of people and I have certainly been helped by some of the medications I took but this was an example of medication being prescribed inappropriately.

I was talking to a relative of mine in Europe who had a very different experience at a mental hospital. His was a mental hospital where the patients were allowed to roam the grounds outside, use the internet, take pictures and have sexual relations. My relative was wondering which system was better. I don’t know which system is better but I do know that the state of mental health care in the U.S. is deeply flawed and broken. What I went through at Payne Whitney and at the treatment center I was is not unusual and it’s not one of the more horrifying stories out there.

I was in Payne Whitney for about six weeks but you could have told me I was there for six days or six months and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I had lost all sense of time. When the doctors decided to release me it wasn’t so much because I’d improved as because they didn’t know what else they could do for me.

They weren’t sure what should be done for me after I was released either. There was talk of sending me to a day treatment program and there was talk of sending me to a program for the mentally ill that was located on a farm, in which the residents helped to take care of plants and animals. I love animals so the farm program seemed like a good option for me but I was deemed to be too unstable for it.

Just like I have no memory of the day I entered Payne Whitney, I have no memory of the day I was released. I do know that the doctors said there was a good chance I would end up having to return at some point.

25 Bloggish Facts About Me

  1. I made up this tag myself after doing the 25 Bookish Facts About Me
  2. This is the first time I’ve written two blogs in one day. I’d like to write a blog each day but I’m not sure I can manage it.
  3. I had my first blog when I was a teenager. It’s not a blog I’m especially proud of.
  4. I find the statistics that WordPress gives fascinating and I’m always looking at them.
  5. Some of the search terms that have been used to find my blog include “psycho mental patient adventures sex”, “daddy can you give me a massage” “why true friends do not make you feel inferior” and “making pigeon noises insult”
  6. My blog entries are much longer than most other peoples’ blog entries and much longer than the average internet user’s attention span.
  7. All of the multi-part blog series I’ve done I originally intended writing as one blog entry.
  8. I’m pretty sure that a large group of people hate watches my blog so they can mock and criticize the things I write but that’s fine because I mock and criticize those people on this blog too. I can see from the referral stats that my blog has been the subject of threads on their message board. I’m just glad I’m so interesting to them.
  9. Some of the most hurtful things that have ever been said about me were said in the form of WordPress comments.
  10.  I’ve gotten some really nice WordPress comments too.
  11. I have no interest in reblogging anything. I want everything on my blog to be my own writing.
  12. I don’t think I could be one of those bloggers that limits their blog to one topic. I’d get bored writing about the same topic over and over again.
  13. I have so many ideas for future blog entries.
  14.  Blog entries almost always take me longer to write than I anticipate
  15. I enjoy coming up with pseudonyms for the people I write about on this blog.
  16.  Multiple people in my real life have read about themselves on this blog and said “I did the same thing that person did” or “I agree with what that person said” without realizing they were the person I was writing about.
  17. I worry about offending the people I write about, which makes me wish I was better at writing fiction.
  18.  I share a lot of sensitive embarrassing personal information on this blog and I make this blog entirely public. Shame has been a destructive force in my life so it’s been therapeutic for me to just let all my shit out there for the world to see.
  19. This blog has given me a new purpose in life.
  20. I like it when the bell at the top of the screen lights up red to tell me I have a new notification.
  21. I wish more people read my blog but at the same time I’m surprised and happy that this many people do read it.
  22. There’s a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for months but I’ve been putting it off because I’ve been afraid to write about it.
  23. I proof read my blog three times before I hit publish.
  24. My blog title Crazy-NOS comes from when I was in a mental hospital and the doctors were having trouble giving me a diagnosis. I jokingly said that they should diagnose me with Crazy-NOS (Crazy, not otherwise specified)
  25. Last year when someone suggested I start a blog I replied that my life was too boring for a blog. I think I was wrong about that.