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May 5th, 2014

09:02 pm - Learning for myself
As I get older and know myself better, I've been realizing that I get much more pleasure out of the "big picture" than little details. Growing up, there was always this push in school to "get" and to "know", demonstrated by spitting back numerous details about whatever we were ostensibly "learning". Yet I always felt like a fraud, somehow, that I didn't really understand or get anything.

Now I realize that the basic understanding of something involves a picture, of the whole, and of the parts, but only in as much detail as is important for the whole. Too much detail, and the detail has no place. There is no stand on which to hang that particular umbrella.

A lot of books, and even courses, are structured in a way that assumes you find the details interesting for their own sake, or your picture of the whole can only emerge from a morass of details. But I'm not interested in something just because there are a lot of details. I want to know the parts that interest me specifically, that are relevant to my life or that just sparkle for me. I already have a room, and I have a stand for so many umbrellas, and I'm looking for ones that are just the right colour and size to fit with the feng-shui of my room. All other umbrellas may be glorious, beautiful, highly relevant to someone else - or even to myself at a later date - but right now I don't really give a damn about them.

And why should I care about all the umbrellas I won't be walking under? Or to extend the metaphor, if I already have a fall jacket, enough underwear, a refrigerator, a table to sit at, pens to write with, etc. etc., do I really need more of these particular items? Items fulfill a need in my life. Those items that don't fulfill a need are extraneous and distracting.

That is my current view of knowledge. Some of it is highly interesting, important, appealing, and even necessary for me. But not all of it. And school gave me a mistaken mindset: the erroneous belief that because something was in a course, written in a textbook or coming out of a teacher's mouth, it was for me.

I suppose they might have conceived of school as something of a buffet, a place kids went to try different dishes and decide what sat best on their palette, but that's certainly not the way it was delivered. It was delivered as a series of force-feedings, until I got to the point where I didn't even know what tasted good or whether I was full. And yet I was considered one of the "bright" ones, even as I desperately tried to fit all that stuff into me, even as it warped who I was, and made me miserable.

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January 17th, 2014

07:49 pm - Exhaustion, work, numbness/overwhelm
I'm so tired today. Started a new job last week, at a local museum helping out in the hands-on science gallery, part-time. For most of my shifts I was at least functional, and even had myself sleeping regularly and waking refreshed for a good 7 day stretch. But the crappy feeling has crept up on me, starting even before this job. It's this numbness combined with a sense that there is something else going on underneath - anger, sadness or fear, not sure which. Basically I end up not wanting to go anywhere or do anything.

I have two shifts more tomorrow and the next day (Sunday) at noon. Then I work at 10 am on Weds and Friday.

I really dread the early morning shifts coming up. When I get emotionally overwhelmed, I can lie in bed for hours and not fall asleep, so it's not easy for me to fall into a regular routine. Things trigger me, and then my sleep deteriorates for days. The sense of being stuck and trapped is very powerful. Maybe it's an emotional flashback to what happened in the hospital. Seclusion, abandonment, terror... And once I lose sleep one night, it just gets worse. I get more exhausted, it gets harder to rest, and I end up having to take a sleeping pill just to reset.

This past week, I think I was triggered by interviewing someone about a new film about a mental patients' organization, and by going to a screening and forum that brought up for me again the anger and overwhelm of the violence that psychiatry has done to me. Maybe it started some underground anger/rage process and that blossomed out of control and is why for 3 nights now I've had deteriorating sleep.

This sleep problem - fragile patterns, easily disruptable by stressors - has plagued me for years. I think I've been deeply traumatized and my body is responding in the natural way bodies do when that happens. But aside from one therapist I see maybe once a week at most, I still feel like I don't have enough resources. My boyfriend and I have taken to sitting in the dark for hours before bed. But sometimes the feelings inside me feel so strong, and yet so trapped, that I just don't know what to do.

I don't know how coherent or grammatical this is today. I'm just so beat.

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November 24th, 2013

03:32 pm - Horrible life, wish I could end it
I can't stand my life. What made me me is gone. 375 mg of Seroquel still. It's a torture. I can't think. I can't feel. My head goes blank. Doesn't matter what I do on the outside, how smart I appear, inside I am empty and devoid of a sense of being alive.

I wish I was brave enough to just kill myself.

Thanks, all the people who don't bother reading this journal or talking to me anymore.

Can't blame you anyways - I've become less than nothing since I've been a mental patient. I used to be a real person. I used to be interesting. Now... nothing.


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November 11th, 2013

08:58 pm - Taking care of myself
The other day, when I wrote about no longer writing scripts anymore, was a pretty crappy day.

I have realized, since seeing my new counselor for the past couple months, that I get into these modes of being where everything is unacceptable and horrible and I believe my life is over - not literally, more metaphorically. As in "I can't stand another minute of this shitty life, it's unfair, that's it!" Yet it's not like I have any plans. I don't actually ever try to physically kill myself.

I suppose that's not what it's about.

It's about HATING myself, SHAMING myself, out of some misplaced habit that started a long time ago when I was young and didn't have friends in school. When I was sad and couldn't cry any longer. When being "perfect" was the only way to remove the insecurities and doubts and grief from my mind.

Being a perfect student. Not making mistakes. Excelling.

In those days I didn't understand that none of that spelled long-term success, nor did I realize that being so "success"-focused could mean my psychic death knell.

Lately I've had a new realization.

Feeling scared and overwhelmed isn't a reason to go on a rampage of hopelessness. The very depths of my feelings show how much I WANT to turn my life around, how much I WANT to learn to care for and love myself. The instinct to turn the fear and worry into a greater beast of psychic self-destruction does not help me out. It's an instinct worth rewiring.

When I get this way, I have the option to sit with myself and sort out those feelings. Often I end up crying, and sometimes, just sometimes, I can ground myself and actually give myself some support and love. A really good cry is cleansing by itself, and accompanied by some self-realizations, it helps even more. A good cry can turn a potentially bad night of sleep into a good one, even.

I've been reading my LiveJournal entries from 2005. I wasn't doing all that great then, either. In fact, except for having a mind not impaired by psych drugs, I was doing more poorly in many dimensions of my life.

I'm not as weak or physically exhausted now as I used to be. Part of that is probably not being a vegan anymore, part of it is discovering that if I avoided oranges it really helped my bladder problems (which, you may have noticed, I haven't talked about in a long time - I am pretty much not bothered by them now), part of it is generally getting better quality sleep. I also discovered through a blood test a few years ago that I had a low Vitamin D level, so I've been supplementing with that for years now.

Although I have periods when I get very scared, I don't have the same degree of utter panic as in, say, March 2005. I credit lots of that 2005 panic to cold turkey off psych drugs in the months previously, and I got terribly freaked out last summer when I tried to wean off the last 125 mg of Seroquel and failed. BUT, with all that said, even though these drugs are slowly poisoning me, on a day-to-day basis I'm not totally freaked out (though I often have times when I am scared enough that I do have to sit on the couch until I can cry and relax).

Even though I still don't have what you'd call a "career" - I'm on CPP Disability and don't have paid work - I am doing things that involve intellectual work, something I was afraid I could never do in 2005. My concentration isn't amazing, but I can carry through on projects. I've started to learn how to connect better with people and just fake my way through things when I have to. I think I've realized that I don't have to be perfect to be part of the conversation. And since August, I've been writing articles for a community news site and putting together audio segments for a campus/community radio station. And continuing my work on my plays, as hard as that is. I'm starting to think that maybe drama is just hard to write, for anyone.

I guess it's just been so long since I've been on mind-altering chemicals that I've learned to act despite a shorter stack and feeling more simple-minded. People nonetheless seem impressed with my writing skills and keep reassuring me that I'm intelligent. So I'm in this "somewhat numbed but cushioned" space. Not really happy with not having my whole brain, but also able to participate to some degree in life.

I think a big influence and help in my life has been my boyfriend Mark, who I've lived with since May 2009. He has accepted that I get overwhelmed, and he's hardly ever impatient with me, and he is consistently caring. He also doesn't get worked up or freaked out too easily. It was harder when I was living with my mom.

So in many ways the indicators are pointing in a good direction. I only wish I won't be stuck on these chemicals my whole life. I hope that there is some emotional healing going on. I also am upset about how overweight I am now, credited to the drugs. I have to eat a low-carb diet just to keep my weight under control. And I still have good and bad times with the stairs. It's odd how that is. Been that way since I was 20. I often think it's because my legs are just so very tight, normally.

It's been almost 3 months since the hospital released me last time, the first hospitalization I'd had in over 2.5 years. I considered it an achievement to have gone that long without being hospitalized, but my latest shrink is being pompous and inflexible about the drugs, acting like I'm some terribly difficult case. I'm simply not interested in trying any new "combinations" of untested chemicals, only in lowering the Seroquel from the monumental level of 400 mg to a less organ-destroying level (previously my maximum dosage was 300 mg, and it wasn't until about 125 mg of Seroquel that all hell broke loose last summer). If he continues to talk down to me and not let me reduce the Seroquel, I am going to find someone who will work with me. If I hadn't experienced intense overwhelming panic and insomnia and body temperature problems from reducing the Seroquel (even though I went as slowly and cut pills as small as I could), I think I would have made it through the withdrawal. It was too much, too fast, in the end. Anyone would crack after 3 nights awake. As it was, I was pretty in touch with reality until the insomnia got really really bad. In the future I'd like to work with a compounding pharmacy.

What's wrong with staying on psych drugs my whole life, you ask? Well, I don't want to die young from diabetes or heart disease. The statistics are out there - 25 years' reduced life expectancy - and they are terrifying. I didn't have a weight problem before these drugs came along.

Life is frustrating and hard. But here, for the record, I wrote some observations that I find optimistic.

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October 26th, 2013

02:28 pm - Scriptwriting is dead to me.

I think I'm done with scriptwriting. After I wind down a couple projects, no more plays or screenplays.

Several reasons for this:

  1. My apathy and lack of creativity, due to the drugs I'm forced to take.

  2. Not really understanding the point of writing drama anymore, as there is no pleasure in just putting down dialogue. I can never answer the question, "What's the point?" It just feels like words on a page.

  3. It's really not that hard to put dialogue down on paper, and the greatest difficulty is writing a plot that means something and characters you care about. But plot is not and has never been my strong suit, no matter how hard I try, and I am finding it harder and harder to think of characters I care about. So I don't feel that I have any particular talent for drama. Possibly not even the right disposition.

  4. Not feeling like a real or confident enough person to sell the writing I produce.

  5. Not being that excited by the plays I do see that are successful - making me think I'm missing some innate emotional and cognitive functionality needed to appreciate good drama. Unless, of course, regional theatres are just producing crappy plays. Hard to tell.

  6. It's not a job. Unless you are incredibly confident and know lots of people and can make things happen, this manner of writing doesn't lead to employment. Better to write in some other style that suggests more practical applications.

I'm in a mode where I want to drop everything and not do anything, because the burden of faking it while drugged is just too high. I place so much value on authenticity and being my real self that it seems impossible to parade about intoxicated by Seroquel, pretending to care and be like other people. Easier to just be honest and sit at home and do nothing with my life. That's what the drugs make me want to do. They turn me into exactly the kind of pathetic loser I see littering so-called self-help organizations.

Yes, I'm upset. I've cried a lot lately. But that doesn't change anything. It doesn't put me in shape to write or to be anything in the world. My life is on hold, possibly permanently.

I wish I had the courage to just kill myself.

I've had that thought a lot in the past few years.

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02:19 pm - Blogging through apathy
I wish people still journaled like they used to. This site is becoming lonelier. I only come here once in a while, to add my recent experiences. But there's just not the community there once was.

I feel so desperately trapped in psychiatric labels and drugs that I fear I will never get free of them. My life doesn't feel like my own. Waking up at noon, having no enthusiasm for anything, feeling empty-headed.

I don't know how long someone has to struggle with the mental health system and their own demons before it ends. I fear it will never end, never in my life. That if I succumb and act compliant, I still end up miserably apathetic and medicated out of a real sense of my true self. That if I fight and try to withdraw from the drugs or at least go to a lower level where more brain activity happens again, inevitably the you-know-what hits the fan.

Yesterday I was wishing I could go to Western Lapland in Finland, where the Open Dialogue system is the dominant mental health paradigm. I was hoping that those Finns could get me off this medication and give me the actual emotional help I need.

Wishful thinking. Or desperate thinking.

It's nearly intolerable to be on 400 mg of Seroquel. I feel that everything I do, I am faking interest. I feel that the deeper thoughts I once had are gone. Out in public with people, I am pretending, while being empty, not a real person.

Then again, when I read old posts by myself, I'm not sure my mind was that structured anyways. I had ideas, yes, but little intellectual discipline. I read about feeling like a dilettante.

I've started seeing a new therapist who has given me some ideas about trauma. I've been wondering if perhaps that's a big piece of the puzzle. That part of the confusion about feelings and distance from people -- even before the drugging -- is about dissociation in general, being disembodied. At a certain age, the pain of living got to be too much, and I developed a new way of coping, a way that distanced me from ordinary human experience, made me feel shut down and shut off.

I don't want to go on and on in this post, because I'm hoping someone will actually read it. Not that it really says much. Maybe a future post will say something concrete. But if you are my friend and you do read this, I would appreciate some response. I'm learning, slowly, that friends can be there for me, and can sometimes even make me feel better and more connected.

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September 29th, 2013

10:42 pm - Drugged right up again
So, here I am again. Fresh off a pretty awful summer. I haven't written here for a while, so I figure I might as well post. If not for the people who read this blog - not many people do - if only for myself when reading this later.

On December 29, 2010, I got out of the hospital for the second last time. Up until this summer, I had hoped that December 2010 would be the last time, but that's not how it worked out.

I had a good run. Over 2.5 years without doing anything to land in the hospital. I was even reducing the Seroquel and feeling more like myself.

Then I reached a level of Seroquel (around 87.5 mg) where even the smallest I could cut the pills (12.5 mg - 25 mg pill cut in half) was still resulting in horrible withdrawal symptoms: insomnia, panic, body temperature problems, even vomiting on one occasion. So at that point, I made an even worse decision and went cold turkey on the rest of my Seroquel, convinced I had finally gotten Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome and was going to die if I didn't get off of it.

I can't remember exactly everything that happened, but eventually the lack of sleep and abject terror (coupled with depersonalization and paranoia on a few occasions) caught up with me, and I started being kind of weird. Not weird if you consider I was doing best despite being exhausted and in terror all night, unable to sleep. But weird if you compare me to others. And having weird thoughts about the world and who was in it.

I think it was also a time when I was frustrated and trying to find ways to earn a living, or at least dream of being equal to everyone else.

Read more...Collapse )
So in summary, back on 400 mg of Seroquel (more than ever before - previous apex was 300 mg) through force in the hospital, outpatient psychiatry still making me wait to see a doctor I've never met. And feeling lobotomized but not having much to do about that.

I'm thinking of starting a new blog, something like "Stuck on Seroquel". I'll let you (whoever you are) know when/if I do.

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April 12th, 2013

03:43 pm - Satirical article
Here's a satire I wrote for an April Fool's contest. If you enjoy it, please share widely.

NYC pregnancy prevention campaign bothers dads


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03:40 pm - Self-compassion
A few days ago I found a website that resonated with me. It's called Self-compassion: A Healthier Way of Relating to Yourself.

Self-compassion means treating yourself as you would a good friend. It involves having empathy for your own suffering and also recognizing that you are not alone, that others also have the same problems, that they are common human experiences.

Unlike self-esteem, self-compassion is not about distinguishing or differentiating yourself, it's about finding common humanity. It's also about accepting our imperfections. No one is perfect. You don't have to be perfect to be loveable. You are worthwhile just because you are human.

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April 9th, 2013

04:52 pm - Work troubles

This past year, I've worked and left three jobs.

First, I was a web developer. I wrote back-end code for a Ruby on Rails based information system. I started off working 37.5 hours a week, but when that proved untenable due to my hand issue (which is gone now, thanks to athletic therapy), I reduced to 32.5, and then when the stress was too much, eventually down to 20 hours a week. I managed to hold that job for about 15 months, a record for me.

Then I found another job, at the university. I was hoping it would be less technical, and that it would bring me closer to "content", as it involved working with online courses. But I soon discovered it was even less creative than the web developer job. At least at the other job there was some code to be made, and when you made the code, you saw that it did things. Oooh, look, the report works. The university job was just drudgery. Running backup scripts. Keeping track of spreadsheets for courses. Plus, it was full-time. After 5 weeks of that and calling in sick for a week, I left.

Then I did nothing for a few months. Then, feeling useless, I applied for and got a job in a daycare. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, after all the IT stuff. Since last summer, I've been volunteering with kids, and I thought I'd like to try working with them. Maybe it seemed like something where I could use my heart more. Maybe it seemed more human. I don't know.

Well, I worked in the daycare, part-time, for 6 and a half weeks. They only gave me 2 hours a day, though sometimes added a few extra hours as a substitute, and I was busing 45 minutes each way. Probably if I'd had a car it would have been easier.

I feel like I lack something. I quit the daycare essentially because it was boring, and the types of interactions I had with the kids didn't reinforce my sense of who I was or wanted to be. It just felt like we warehoused them all day. And half of my duties were as a lunch program monitor at the school across the field, and there, all I did was microwave lunches and watch the kids eat, then go outside and stand in the cold while they roughhorsed. I noticed the other staff would tell the kids what to do and not to do, and I couldn't really bring myself to concentrate enough on what they were doing to bother telling them anything. I felt like I was just standing around waiting for the shift to end. When I experienced lunch with the younger kids, I didn't feel comfortable telling them to eat more meatballs (or pasta, or whatever). There were no real programs for them, no activities to lead, just watching them play. And I tried to play with them a few times and couldn't get into it. Sometimes I'd look at the clock 3 times in the same 5 minutes.

I could be mean to myself and say, "Come on, couldn't you tolerate a little boredom? You sissy." And I probably have said that to myself a bunch of times. But I was just so glad to quit.

I quit after going to a 2-day film industry conference where I shook hands and gave people temporary business cards. I've been working on my screenwriting and playwriting website for a while, and while I'm ashamed of it overall, I'm still trying to "sell" myself as a writer. That conference made me feel I should work full-time on my writing and try to get somewhere with it.

Only I'm deeply insecure even about my writing. I feel that it's about "nothing", that it's just vomit that comes out of me, blah blah blah as I like to say. That it's just the default thing I "do" because I can't do anything real. But then I try to think about "real" things, and I can't even fix on one idea. Maybe I'm just too worried about finding the perfect, good, valuable "thing" to do that I can't think straight.

Working seems like such a hopeless prospect now. And it has been for as long as I can remember. This emptiness, this lack, this sense of uselessness and "what's the point?" about it all.

I did once hold an inbound customer service (call centre) job down for 6 months, in 2006, and I was pretty good at that, plus the day seemed to go by fairly quickly. I've thought about applying for such jobs again. I've actually become pretty good at rewriting my resume. I end up getting a high proportion of what I interview for - what can I say, I interview well. And occasionally I do volunteer for arts festivals, and I'm still doing some volunteering with kids. But I don't have the drive or motivation I had as a teenager. Haven't had that in a long time. And maybe back then it was tied into a kind of grandiose hope that merely by being good at school, I had a future, a real "life" ahead of me. And that hope was dashed with university.

It's funny, 'cause I have written and rewritten a lot of scripts (plays, screenplays) at this point. But ask me to emotionally identify with them and get all excited, well, it's just out there at arms' length away from me. "Those people said stuff that just happened to come out of my pen. No thought or art to it. It's all so meh."

Sometimes I feel permanently damaged or broken. But being told you're permanently damaged or broken (i.e. depressed, mentally ill) really does nothing to help one's resilience and sense of personal power. I supposed being honest about your deep feelings of shame and inferiority could be helpful if you could use that knowledge to become a stronger person. But if all you do is go in hopeless, despairing circles all the time, getting nowhere... Well, it's useless. Nonetheless, I want to think there are answers and hope out there, and it's not something that comes out of a pill bottle. Because all the pills in the world don't fix these issues, no matter what some people think (or try to force down your throat).

Maybe this writing will help me. I'm writing here because, well, what do I have to lose? Writing on paper isn't working so well for me. And there's nothing that I really expect from an audience out there on the Internet either. But maybe in all this writing I'll make some discovery.

Sometimes I feel like I just have to find something I believe in and commit to it. After all, I've lasted in my current relationship for over 4 years, and that was probably because I said, "He's a good person. He loves me. We get along. You'd be stupid to leave him." I made a commitment and have stuck to it.

Maybe I have to renew my commitment to dramatic arts, but then all the doubts flood in. "How can you make yourself care about something?" "You have to be really motivated to sell yourself as a playwright/screenwriter." "It's a very competitive field, you need to be stronger and really believe in yourself." "It's not about anything. You picked drama so you could write about people in general, in an unfocused, undisciplined way." "If you really had brains, you'd be a researcher." Sigh...

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