Monthly Archives: April 2014

Pop, pop, pop our pills …

My son and his friend composed this jingle and sang it to us once only.

Pop, pop, pop our pills,

especially when we’re sad.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,

then we won’t be mad.

Clo, clo, clozapine

It is really bad.

Our doctor wants to up the dose,

He’s an awful cad !

Pop, pop, pop our pills

The doctor says we’ll gain.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

At least we might be sane !

 

 

It happens in the best of families

label jars not peopleIt is extremely difficult for a teenager to have to deal with a mentally ill brother. As much as they may love him, they find his behaviour embarrassing, and their worst nightmare is that the kids at school will discover their secret and make their lives a misery by teasing them. As if it is not bad enough and sad enough to have a brother who is hounded by voices in his head that others cannot hear. Listening to their peers telling jokes about people with a mental illness can’t be easy. Our daughters would have liked to speak up; But, they simply could not do so and that made them feel ever worse. They were in a catch 22 situation.

I often wanted to shout; ‘Do you know how many famous people suffer  from mental illness? Here are some of the illnesses – Depression, Bipolar Disorder (known previously as manic depressive illness), schizophrenia, OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive Disorder, as well as other phobias.

Mentally ill people can be found all over the world, even in the best of families. This is their family secret and instead of speaking out, they let the stigma get to them, so making it even worse to deal with.

You can achieve anything …

Hi, I'm a mailman and ...   One morning, a mailman popped notes into some mailboxes on his rounds. He had been doing this route for many years and knew many of the  house owners personally. He told them that it was  his way of making people realize their worth, in the hope that it might help them feel better about themselves. This is the note he wrote: ‘Remember at all times that you are a beautiful human being and can achieve anything you wish. Have an awesome day.’

Teachers can help break the deafening silence

They were a happy family with a gifted daughter, but by the time she reached the higher grades, there were signs that everything was not quite as it seemed.  She stopped worrying about her appearance, refused to attend a summer camp even though she had gone happily every year previously. She spent a lot of time alone in her bedroom and had trouble sleeping. This girl had been a popular, social child but now, she no longer wanted to spend time with her friends and her grades went down.  When friends called, she seldom agreed to talk to them. One day, she told her parents tearfully that she was hearing voices and that somebody was out to get her. Her parents, who are friends of mine, told me later that they felt as though a bomb had been dropped onto their family. They made an appointment to see a psychiatrist.

That was the beginning. They also made a point of speaking to the school counselor to find out whether any of their daughter’s teachers or fellow students had noticed changes in her behavior. They also make a point of asking her friends whether they had been aware of changes and if so, which of her behaviors seemed the most serious. Did they ever think of speaking to her parents or didn’t they know how to approach this difficult subject. Did they wonder how her family must have felt? Did they think that going to a psychiatrist would help? Did they think that anybody was to blame – their friend’s parents, or even themselves? In retrospect, they were asked what they thought they could have or should have done – if anything.

A mental illness is not easy to spot and is often mistaken for drug or alcohol abuse and someone suffering from a mental illness often uses these substances to relieve their symptoms.  But, if a teacher or a student’s friend is concerned about his/her behavior, it is essential to pass on this information to an adult – any adult.

What we all  need to remember at all times is that a mental illness is a physical illness – something in the chemistry or structure of a person’s brain has gone wrong so there is need for compassion to be shown and no need for stigma at all.;

classroom

A psychiatrist once blamed me for causing schizophrenia

shrink at desk plus clockA psychiatrist once blamed me for causing schizophrenia but over the last decade or more, scientists have proven that there are distinct changes in the brain that occur in people with various forms of a mental illness. Having the finger of blame pointed at me was traumatic and I remember distinctly how I felt. My breath caught in my throat, I felt an excruciating pain across my chest,  and I had trouble breathing, quite sure that I was experiencing a heart attack.

Mental illnesses are disorders of the brain but are actually physical illnesses like diabetes. The only difference is that they occur in our brains instead of in our bodies. Why is it acceptable for any other organ in our body to go wrong and not acceptable for a brain to go wrong? The same way that other organs malfunction, our brains can malfunction too. AND, HERE TOO, NOBODY SHOULD BE BLAMED BECAUSE NOBODY IS TO BLAME.

NOBODY CAN CAUSE SCHIZOPHRENIA, NO MATTER HOW HARD THEY MAY TRY. FAMILIES CANNOT CAUSE SCHIZOPHRENIA -NEITHER CAN THE PATIENT.

There are warning signs of schizophrenia: Personality changes are common, irrational fears occur, there can be signs of a diminished appetite, social isolation emotional outbursts, a lack of  concentration, bizarre behavior, mood swings and a very ill patient, now known as a consumer, might even speak of suicide.

Those close to an individual showing any of these behaviors, should turn to a trained professional. Remember that only a psychiatrist can make the final diagnosis of a mental illness. and that might take some time as there is no definitive test that can be done.

What life has taught me

juggling five balls 2I imagined juggling five balls in the air at the same time and to name each ball, and this is what I came up with:

WORK       FAMILY        FRIENDS        HEALTH       SPIRIT

What I was trying to do with my life was to keep all of them up in the air at the same time and it took a while until I understood that my WORK was like a rubber ball and if I dropped it, it would bounce back. But the other four balls;  FAMILY, HEALTH, FRIENDS and SPIRIT were crafted from glass, and if I dropped one of them, it would be irrevocably marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. I knew that it would never be the same again. That applied to the last four on my list, I simply had to learn the importance of striving for a modicum of balance in my life, something I am still learning to do. The following points are what my experiences in life have taught me:- Although I have come a long way, I have yet to learn not to undermine my own worth by comparing myself to others. At last I have learned that it is precisely because of these differences that each of us is special. Having discovered what is best for me, I try not to set my goals by what others deem important. At a practical philosophy class I learned not to live in the past nor to agonize about the future. I understand now that It is far better to live out my days one day at a time for the rest of my life. Although it took time, I have learned not to take the things closest to my heart for granted, I cling to them, as without them, my life would be meaningless. A difficult lesson to learn was not to use words nor time carelessly as neither can be retrieved. Of course there are times when I mess up on this point, but being aware of it has helped. My life is no longer a race; rather a journey to be savored. I learned not to give up when I felt I had something to give, because nothing is really over until the moment I stop trying. I try to remember at all times that every person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated and I would far rather be on the giving end. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure easily carried. Once, I was afraid to learn in case I would not succeed but I am afraid no longer. It wasn’t so long ago that I had neither the time nor the courage to do so. So  many of us strive to be perfect. I know that I am far from perfect and am the first to admit it. Taking risks no longer bothers me. By taking chances, I have learned to be brave and how to put on a brave front. I am convinced that it is not a good idea to shut love out of my life simply by using the lame excuse that I had no time for it. The fastest way to receive love, is to give it; the quickest way to lose love is to hold onto it too tightly. Last but not least, I know that it’s a good idea not to run so fast that I forget not only where I’ve been, but where I am going. I can truthfully say that I have succeeded in learning some, but not all of the above points. work, friends, health, family, spirit

Music therapy in a psychiatric hospital?

musicians 2I would  imagine that music, even background music in a psychiatric hospital could soothe agitation and alleviate sadness in patients – for a while anyhow. It could also help provide a calm environment amongst the pervading chaos felt by a patient in one of these hospitals.

I know of someone who recruited others to join her and later reported that being involved with music gave them all a great deal of pleasure as well as relaxation. They composed songs communally and felt that they had achieved something positive. After their first CD came out, with help of course, they felt so much more confident in their abilities to achieve something. Some of the subjects they chose to sing about included: understanding, removing stigma and living with a mental illness. They stressed that working together was preferable to doing the same thing alone.

Holidays are here again …

 

Time to change 2Easter and Passover come in April and as always, I think about people with mental illnesses who should not be ignored. Nor should the developmentally disabled. Imagine how they must feel while the rest of the world goes shopping and celebrating, seldom giving a thought to anyone less fortunate than themselves. I know how my son felt when he suffered from schizophrenia. Seeing the pain caused by holidays to someone so dear to me, left an indelible mark on my attitude to life.

It really is time to give time and thought to the less fortunate people amongst us and around us. Chances are that you might know someone who is disabled or suffers from a brain illness or a mental illness. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and/or alcohol abuse, dementia, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can affect anyone from any walk of life and cause  more suffering than many physical health problems. Why? Because people understand physical illnesses and probably do not feel threatened by them.

So many individuals are feared and thus ignored. People often behave in a hostile and disapproving manner rather than show compassion, support and the minimum understanding. These reactions cause isolation and unhappiness. Imagine how terrible it must be to be confronted by stigma and discrimination especially when using public transport or even when out shopping.

Critical or derogatory attitudes are damaging to everyone, especially to a person with a brain illness. No matter how hard a person tries, being accepted is difficult. Because he/she is unable to shake off the stigma, that person loses confidence and in time, might come to believe that he/she is not even a worthy citizen unable to find a niche in the community.

Let’s open our hearts on holidays and if each of us befriends one person, we can change the world we live in.

 

                                                                                                                               Time for change 1

Smile, smiles, smiley

 

smileyIt was the picture of a smiley that first prompted me to write this jingle.

Smiling is infectious,

You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today,

I started smiling too;

I walked around the corner

And someone saw my grin

When he smiled I realized

I’d passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile

Then realized its worth.

A smile like mine could travel;

Right around the earth.                                                                           

smileys

 

 

 

 

 

Should judgments of others be based on a personal trait?

stop the stigma of mental illnessOur observations of other people are usually based on a personal trait and unfortunately, this is an all too common an experience for a person who has a mental illness. Stigma may be obvious and direct like making a negative remark about an individual’s mental illness or treatment, or it may be more subtle such as the assumption that the person concerned could be unstable, violent or dangerous because he/she has a mental health condition. Some individuals even judge themselves in a negative way.

The effects of stigma are harmful and take various forms. There can be a lack of understand by family, friends or colleagues. There is often discrimination at work or school. They have difficulty finding housing. They suffer bullying, physical violence or harassment. Health insurance in most countries does not adequately cover mental illness. Eventually the patient believes he/she will never be able to succeed or meet any challenges and that they won’t ever manage to improve their situations.