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BipolarLife101 Mental Health Blogs

BipolarLife101 Blogs

Bloggers from around the globe, discuss mental health issues facing people, friends, families and communities worldwide.

My 80-20 Rule for Great Mental Health


Like many of you, there are periods of time where I had relentless battles with my mental health. During many of the battles, actually all of them, I would discuss, even at times begging my brain to put a stop to this onslaught of depression and anxiety. Suffering from a mental illness you never know what the day may bring. However, with support, coping skills, keeping yourself physically and mentally in shape, along with a mental health plan. You can have many more wonderful days than you do terrible days.

I created this simple plan, to help me have wonderful days and live life with my mental illness. I call it my 80-20 plan, and at first it was only something to keep me balanced. When I began explaining the plan to others who suffered from mental health issues, they started implementing the plan into their lives.
First, let’s discuss the 20% part of the plan. This part focuses on just your mental health, nothing else gets in here. Making and keeping appointments with your regular doctor, psychiatrist and your therapist. That’s a very important aspect of the 20% rule. Your doctors’ keep your medications regulated and can talk to you about events that are affecting your life, and more importantly, they can typically see when something’s not right and can help you make decisions concerning your mental health.

Above I mentioned that your doctors kept your medications regulated. You, however, are the one that needs to take medication as prescribed and preferably at the same time every day. Look, we have been to hell and back, and if taking a few pills keeps me out of that nightmare, it’s worth it. Also, there’s no magic pill that the pharmaceutical companies sell, so we need some more fire power in our battles with our mental health disorders.
Maybe you were hospitalized or in an outpatient program for your mental health and while you were there, you probably learned a handful of coping skills. They teach and prepare us for life and the world around us. I know my anxiety goes through the roof when I’m stuck in traffic or some jerk is being a complete asshole to a fast-food employee. There are so many external events that may affect us, and we’re all different so my coping skills may not work for you. That’s why an arsenal of coping skills such as breathing techniques, exercising, writing, walking, music, reading and so much more. You must develop an arsenal of coping skills and more importantly use them when the time comes. Trust me, a lot of people don’t use their coping skills and fall into a severe depression, with many returning to the hospital.

People in your support system are the people who can help you or just talk with you during a rough spot. Your support system can include friends, family members, doctors, pastors and others. Like your medications and coping skills, you have to use your support system in order for it to function properly.
Using all these components and keeping a daily routine, will help you live life, with you in control of your mental disorder. Now you need to take your mental illness seriously even if others around you don't. Now I'm not saying, worry and think about your mental illness 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Yes, we need to take our mental health seriously, but it's essential that we live life, that we smile, laugh and enjoy time with friends and family members and even do things we've never done before. All the items I just mentioned are a part of the 80% plan, however, will get to that in a minute.

There's one item I need to talk about, taking your mental illness too seriously, I’m talking about to the extreme. I have known too many people that take their mental illness so seriously that they did more harm than good. Believe it or not, some people will watch a commercial on TV that talks about depression medication, and automatically they believe they need that medicine. Low and behold, their next visit to the doctor or psychiatrist they are asking for that medication. They'll also do the same thing if a friend tells them about a medication that they're now taking. The next thing you know this person is taking six, seven, even eight pills for their mental illness. When people take this much medication their hands start to shake, they nod off, they sleep most of the day, they may not eat, they may not exercise; actually, they may not do a damn thing.

More is not better, more can be somewhat dangerous!

You made it! Welcome to the 80% part of the plan. This part is really simple and worth every percentage point. Take good care of yourself physically and mentally, and the easiest way to explain the 80% part of the plan; go live life!

You’re thinking is that it? Yes. Have a great life with friends, family and all the new people who enter into your life. We didn’t forget how to enjoy life; our illness just helped us to walk away from life. So go have fun and enjoy life.

Smile……Laugh…….Live Life

A little footnote for you:
Now there are people who will say you can break it down a little more, 10% for this junk, and 25% for this crap. You ever notice when people, government and companies start adding more here, take some here; confusion can arise, and anger can show its ugly head. The 80-20 plan works and it’s effective, there is no reason to complicate or add parts to something that works just fine and then there’s this; it helps people who suffer from mental health issues, and I think that’s a good enough reason. Like the wise old salesman use to say, “Keep it simple.


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© Ryan Shiloh

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Daily Routine - ON or OFF

In mental health, we talk a lot about medications, therapist and many other treatments to assist us in our battle with mental illness. But what about keeping a daily routine?

While in the hospital and outpatient programs, I always noticed the routine we followed each day.  In the hospital you started with breakfast, medications and then got yourself ready for the day, shower, change your clothes and so on; many skipped this part. Classes and groups would begin and then lunch, in the afternoon, more groups and classes until dinner time. In the evening, there may be a group, then some television time or free time. Maybe some snacks, and then it was time to hit the rack. I can tell you some individuals never even got out of bed. My roommate stayed in the bed for three days. This young man worried me so much I would bring him water and cookies, and then he was discharged. Never did figure that situation out. One day a counselor talked to the group about routine and that having a daily routine can make your life easier, ease anxiety, stress and keep your mind at ease. I definitely needed a daily routine after the disastrous life I lived for years.

Then there's the day you leave the hospital and return to a world full of stigma, misconceptions and a world that really has no sympathy towards our mental illness. Friends and family, and your employer may all expect you to become "normal" again. Most of them will think this way. You were in the hospital and outpatient program for a month and are taking medications, you should be fixed. Makes you feel like  a car with a blown valve. All that talking and chatter in your ears can turn your world upside down again.

So why should we keep our life and thoughts organized? The two things you must do in order to get better and stay healthy. Worry about you and your mental health; even if that means you need to take time off from work. The second part is creating a daily routine and sticking with it. In no way do I mean do fifteen items a day, more like five or six. Too many items in your daily routine will lead to depression and his good friend anxiety.

So how do we go about making a daily routine? First keep it simple. We're getting healthy, were not super humans.  Here's how I kept my depression and anxiety in the garage. Again, I kept my routine very simple while keeping my mind and body healthy. Each morning I had some coffee and watched some television. Then I would work on my book, now that it's finished I work on bipolarlife101.com and chat or tweet on Twitter. At lunchtime, I would eat and then do the dishes and also clean up the kitchen and sometimes the bathroom. Exercise and a walk came next. This is essential, definitely exercise, it helps the body and the mind. After my walk I sometimes took a nap or did extra work around the house until my brother -in-law came home from work. We would sit on the front porch and talk with the neighbors or even play some soccer or football with the kids. After dinner, we may talk for a while and then usually I went back to work on the book or website, sometimes even downloaded music. A little television and then hit the rack for a good night's sleep.

Once you get a routine started, stay with it. Once I stopped my daily routine, my mind went into a whirlwind and I fell apart. Forgetting my medications here and there, led me right back to an outpatient program. Just to let you know, I’m racking up the outpatient program miles. The psychiatrist and the staff's conclusion, getting away from my everyday routine caused me to lose focus on my goals and my life. I opened the door for depression and his best friend anxiety, and they walked right in the back door. Since I was missing doses of my medications, I started another whirlwind of hell. Today I’m on track again. I love reading and responding on Twitter and just love writing. Tell my English teachers that I like writing and they will all pass out.

My thoughts, keep it simple, it's your time to shine, don't get upset at the stigma or misconceptions. This is your time to Smile…Laugh…Live Life

Your Daily Routines: ON

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© Ryan Shiloh

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Friendship is a precious gift – maybe, too precious?

Just as I’m writing this, I have my ear-plugs on, not to hear any disturbing sounds from the outside. I need to be alone and to think better about me and others. I know what’s the right way to be. You just decide whether a person is good for you, if your interests coincide, if you have much in common, whether one fits your expectations, if one has a right character to be your friend. Instead of it I’m bothered that people stop talking to me. Worried if I did anything wrong. Promising myself that next time I’ll behave differently, maybe tell more jokes or more interesting stories. Getting obsessed to know whether I made a mistake, where it went wrong. Telling myself next time I won’t say a word about my illness. Never to cancel friends’ meetings because of psychosis. Never to say a word about me interested in psychiatry. Never to talk too much. Never to talk too little. Never to send interesting articles to friends – maybe, I just annoyed them. Never to express my life-views – I might have sounded a bore. Never, never, never.

I don’t really know how to behave to make people talk to me. They seem to only pretend to be friends. I have about five trusted friends, the rest are drifting away. Most people can’t accept me for who I am. They might start to induce me to give up meds. They might not want to see I’m sick. They might meet you and talk to you, then decide to be silent. They might block you from the start or they might abuse or troll you, in the worst case. I don’t find any empathy, when a person stops to talk and I’m left guilty, not realizing what went wrong. I feel sick and I need a friend’s shoulder, love and care. I need it more than normal people, but they treat me worse than those who are stable and mentally strong.

But I’m not strong. On my bad days I’m sure everyone hates me. They think I can only bring problems into their lives. And I’m sensitive. I often feel sympathy for people, while they shun me. I always think, maybe next time with a different person I won’t talk about my illness. But then it happens that people stop talking too. They tell me I’m insincere, that I’m telling lies, that I’m talking too little about myself. They start to suspect something. And they stop communicating to me too. They can’t understand that I had to invent a better life story to attract them. They stop talking anyway, whether I tell lies, or keep silent about myself, or tell the truth. It was the biggest problem for me, when I started to want to communicate, but was denied. It’s been only four years since I began to make friends. And all the more it hurts, that people deny my friendship, when it started to mean something for me. I value a good-hearted conversation and exchanging facts. I can be a good friend. But most of my acquaintances don’t value that. They need healthy friends. They need no extra worry.

Is friendship really a gift too precious for them and I’m not worthy? But how is it going to be, if they don’t accept me for who I am or have no empathy for me? How could they even start to be my friends, if the only thing they care about is if I don’t take antipsychotics?

In vain I ask myself, where’s their humanity and intelligence. They only care if I’m not dangerous for them. Then I start exploring my character and look for my flaws. I judge myself for any little negative thoughts, as if no one else has them except me. I start to think of myself as a potential murderer and a bad person, getting self-stigmatized. I doubt myself. I try to think what wrong I’ve done in life, that some peope want to drive me to suicide or talk among themselves “she didn’t hang herself yet”.

I see I’m not guilty and my life was quite happy and cheerful before the illness. People liked me for intelligence. Now it doesn’t matter. Now they dislike me for being sick. All my endeavours got lost, as I see people value only mental health. They turn away from me, but I feel every contempt, every hateful grin or remark. I’m not without feelings.

There’s no logical way out of it. Just to stop making new friends and stick to old ones. In times of distress I need trusted people to talk to. And making new friends brings so much disappointment and negative outlet, that I got very tired of it.

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Stigma and hate

Some may say I’m too choosy about normals. But most of all I hate stigma, not normal people. Am I really too bad? Wonder how do people feel when they “never have any evil thoughts at all”. They’re telling lies anyway. They have evil thoughts too. I know my thoughts and struggle with them, such people just do harm impulsively.

What’s depressing, there’re people I can’t joke or ironize with about dark things. They will think me bad and get aggressive. Not once or twice I encounted situations, when I was not understood right. I can’t be light-hearted with people anymore, afraid of making any “mistake”. My irony seems vain and lost on them, as I’m not normal and they “can expect anything bad” from me.

What’s more, if people treat me wrong, seems like I have no right to be angry anymore, since I got sick. Have to swallow all insults and never say a word? Looks like I can’t be myself anymore. Only to watch out not to make a bad impression. Is it my imagination or what? And the more sick I get, the more I get insulted and isolated. The more reasons to be angry about. So unfair.

I’ve been trying what I can to reduce stigma of mentall illness, at least in my surroundings. But have I gained anything? Best of my friends are still those mentally ill and fellow shrinks. Talking to normals, I can think a person is nice to me, and then suddenly he starts to say “meds make you not human”, “you’re too silly to study (haha)”, “you’re dangerous because you’re angry with me for things I did”. And it comes not from one person, but from five or ten. I’m a bit tired. They’re so typical. I really try to be friends with some of them, despite their notions and behaviour. But sometimes it’s impossible. I don’t believe anymore, that all people can be stigma-free. I know some really intelligent people can be cruel and uncomprehending. And life can’t be changed by twitter-shitting. It’s about the overall level of kindness, empathy and understanding.

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Stumbled across such term as “backfire effect”. It clearly explained to me why people react the opposite way in comparison with how they should when they suddenly see evidence, for instance that life on Earth wasn’t created in seven days, or that mentally ill people are not all degraded freaks running with knives and killing neighbours. That’s why people never change opinions, and the stronger the facts are, the harder they hold on to their old beliefs. If we always have in mind backfire effect, how can we possibly convince people in evolution theory or in goodness of people with delusional disorder? Backfire effect just proves my suspicions that people don’t change opinions, no matter what facts they see, and even get more hateful if they see something good in you.

And I experimented a bit on several people. I took six of my friends and six people whom I knew not too well, but who were expected to be suspicious of me. I intentionally put some words about how dangerous I might be, and my friends never believed it, as they knew me well and proved me I’m just sick and need some help, can have aggressive thoughts due to illness, but they can’t say normals don’t have such thoughts too. While those who were not friends, even after me pursuing about my intelligence and reasonable mind, after hours of exchanging thoughts and seemingly happy conversations, continued to believe I’m dangerous and going to kill them.

It occurred to me, that when you’re with friends, you can say anything, make dark jokes and smile, be angry, be sad, be happy, and it won’t shatter their good opinion of you. And with other people it is different. You have to watch out for “mistakes”, and even if you don’t do them, you’ll be considered “bad”. Then I recalled I’ve been doing the same thing – trying to convince people I’m good – for years. At first, maybe four or five years ago, I was stubborn and hopeful and wanted to change the world. But now I got completely calm. If stigma is explained by psychology, it means more struggle and I have to gather more strength for it.

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Self Care with Bipolar

Self Care with Bipolar

Taking care of yourself enriches your life and attracts better, more stable people. 

These past few months have been a struggle for me. In August the mysterious pain in my hip developed and it clearly is here to stay. The first hospital trip didn't give me any reasons on to what happened or even a direction to look in. I was prescribed a steroid (prednisone) for the month of October and other than the terrible side effects, the pain was lessened.  On halloween, I got in a car accident which triggered the pain to return. I went to see a doctor and he prescribed me a very potent anti- inflammatory that has helped with the pain quite a bit.

I have lived with bipolar disorder since I was 13 years old and I was just beginning to understand the illness. Now I have to learn how to handle my physical pain as well. I have been able to be in contact with my professors which has helped with understanding my situation but I still need to learn how to live with this. The only other example I know is my father, who lived with chronic pain for 25 years before he passed away. He never took care of himself nor was he energetic enough to make a difference. I certainly do not want to live that way.

While in school, self care has been addressed a lot because of the profession we are pursuing. It will be almost impossible to reach out and help a youth without first addressing your flaws to learn and overcome them. Currently I am working on a project that goes into detail of my childhood and how I was raised, it has been interesting. During these homework sessions, I become overwhelmed with how much shit I've gone through and the things I will never get to say, especially to my dad, because the opportunity is gone. This has been especially difficult.

Some self care methods I have are:

  • Taking a bath/shower with music playing
  • Reading a book/listening to an audio book
  • Cloud watching
  • Taking a walk/exercising 
  • Playing a video game
  • Writing down how you feel
  • Meditate and breathing exercises 

The last one is key. Self care is not a one time fix all. That would be like going to a dentist and walking out saying "I'll never have to brush my teeth again!" I know how hard it is to think of yourself first because of low self esteem but putting yourself on the back burner is not healthy for you or your relationships. Remember, all you have is yourself- so take care of you.

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© Jenna White

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Is there life on meds?


I've come to encounter a very strange view on a mental illness. For instance, people who know I'm taking meds from schizophrenia, saw me improving and told me "you are healthy again, you can do anything", "you will stop taking meds, as your life gets better". When I answered I'm not healthy at all and I'm still having symptoms, they were surprised. As if I became relatively healthy without any medication, by my own efforts. I told them I might need to take meds all of my life, and they answered: "so you're mad! and silly!" As if before, praising my improvement and efforts, they forgot it's all from meds and then suddenly it dawned on them.

Another time, a friend wanted to change me very much, and one of his requirements for me was to take up some study and to stop taking meds. I'm quite despaired when it comes to studying something now. I have my skills in the fields I studied before, but it's hard to remember anything new now. I may understand a lot when I study something, but I forget easily. So the inadequacy of requirements made me desperate.

Giving up meds was the most outrageous of them. I wouldn't give up meds even if they offered money to me. I know this romantic mood, when I thought I was "strong enough" and can control everything in my brain. I gave up meds and was disappointed. Two times I got into a hospital with paranoia and the third time I hardly escaped it. Things seemed to be neat and clear while I had been taking meds. No paranoia bothered me. Rare doubts and suicidal thoughts were dealt with. But as I stopped taking meds, everything was gradually coming to the worst state. People were after me, suicidal thoughts were consuming me, paranoia and mixed emotions were tormenting my brain... There was an illusion of superpower over my mind that meds gave me. I thought myself strong enough to control my brain and I almost believed I'd give up mes and my illness would be over. But it had never happened. No one is strong enough to go against one's own brain. There're few things people are able to control in their bodies.

My friends' points of view had a touch of antiscientific notions. But even relatively intelligent, atheistic people live in illusions they're able to control themselves completely and those who can't - are bad and unworthy.

If you're told you won't be someone's friend till you give up meds, what do they think they're going to get as a result - me in the hospital? I just told them to fuck off. And the other's point of view was: "you are going to take meds for life - so you're a goner, you're getting ready for the residential home".

Can they really be so stupid? They don't say so to people with diabetes or else. Where do they get such notions? And what about some people with schizophrenia working and leading normal lifes on meds? I know some people thinking the same way as normals, they don't take meds and live absorbed in their mad theories and delusions. I also know those who don't get much result from meds, and are deep into their paranoid theories all the same, only high doses of drugs make them a bit out of it. But I also know people for whom meds work out fine, at least for some symptomes, like paranoia, suicidal thoughts or tiredness. And I know several people who gave up meds and are not in this world anymore. They suicided.

We don't get stronger by giving up meds. Symptoms remain as well as the chemical inbalance and changes in the brain. Not all peopel are lucky to recover from schizophrenia. We're not superhuman beings and we can't cope with real illness by words and thoughts. Such views are dangerous for people themselves. Most of them don't experience a mental illness, but if they do, they're stubborn and risk their lives trying to cope themselves. I was that way too. It's even worse when antipsychiatric views come from normal people. It seems so cynical to let people live without medication and see what happens to them! Times of lobotomia and insuline coma are gone, the positives of modern meds are lots more than negative effects, new researches give hope for evolving in this sphere, and still intelligent people don't take the time to explore it and shape their views on facts, they shape their views on their own judgement. Their points of view is created with the help of horror movies and news headlines like "a psycho kills three people". Even though the real danger from mentally ill people is rather low, due to statistics, normals don't go into objective consideration. If one normal person commits a murder, we don't consider all normal people to be fulltime killers. But if one insane person kills someone, they forget about tens of thousands of innocent mentally ill people. Normals don't care for rational views on the mentally ill, they care for bright headlines and pathetic horror movies. Those who make science move forward and those who help patients and promote healthy views - are much less heard in the society.

I'd actually had more pity for a psycho who killed someone in a fit of madness, than to a normal murderer who killed in cold blood and with good consideration. He was conscious, so he is responsible. Consciousness is not a synonym of kindness. Sadly, fully conscious people promote cruel views that shape opinions and change lives of millions of mentally ill people to the worst. Stigma surrounds us everywhere. Why should I feel guilty in taking meds for my illness and to think, "oh, he wouldn't give up on me if I didn't take meds"? It seems some people like my intelligence, but not the way I attained part of it. They think it's "artificial" to be on meds. I'd say it's artificial to take any meds, and those who care only for absolutely healthy people, are not worthy themselves. I care for a person, no matter if one is physically or mentally ill. The person matters, not the illness.


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© Elena Grebennikova

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Childhood dreams

I remember myself from the age of four. We were standing near the house of my mother's friend and chatting with her daughter. We were wearing the same caps. Then I actually don't remember much. I knew we had long walks with my mother and father, went fishing and mushrooming, swimming and visiting our datcha, but it's vague. I only know I had a good childhood and I was happy. At five I started to read and my father showed me how to play chess. These two things were always the best in my life.

When I was eight, I went to school. There life wasn't so cheerful. Pupils bullied me. I didn't want to talk to them. Was afraid of teachers too, so I could hardly answer their questions. Only in writing I could do well. I always wrote good essays at school. At home I was studying chess and reading a lot of books. Started from fairy-tales, I soon got to more serious literature, and it was my main joy. I hardly ever socialized. I never had any friends at school. I was just sitting and reading books for hours. I met people in books. I was writing short stories and poems from the age of seven.

I had been going to the art school for seven years. I actually wanted to attend music school, but had no money for instrument. Music was always the most beautiful thing in my life. No one bulled me there, but still I couldn't manage to make any friends. I was always alone, drawing some pictures in my corner. When I was thirteen, my granny, a biology teacher, gave me some books among which was Brehm's Life of Animals. It determined my interest for biology. I started to grow fishes and snails at home, dreaming to create a new gorgeous sort of guppies. At thirteen I started to have notions that God is watching me everywhere and that there’re cameras somewhere in my room.

The problems at school started about at the age of thirteen too. I was so afraid I couldn't go to answer teachers questions in front of the whole class. Pupils laughed at me. When I was at home, I could hardly remember the things we had to learn by heart or paraphrase. I was so afraid to go to school I sometimes went for a walk instead of lessons. I was horrified a teacher might ask me and I couldn't recall anything. Often teachers asked me if I study at home at all. They didn't believe I was tediously preparing for every lesson. Once I got so exhausted by preparing for exams, I felt unable to do anything. I was just sitting on the bed and sorting out some ribbons for hours.

Pupils bullied me or ignored, as I wasn't able to talk to them. And they thought me silly. I got some good grades for subjects I liked most and those that didn't require learning things by heart. When I was fifteen, a chess club was opened in our little town, and I went there to get acquainted to lots of nice and intelligent people and to attend tournaments. Also I continued to write poems. At the age of sixteen I started to have strange notions. I started to have severe insomnia from seventeen, was prescribed meds, but they were too sleepy, and I gave it up. So it became typical of me to go to bed at 3am. At that time I was only good at math, literature, English and biology at school. It restricted my choice for further education. I entered a good university not far from my town to become an English teacher. It saved money too.


At university things got a little better. I started to have some kind of memory. I was getting ready for examinations, I learned how to remember things for a day or two. Then everything was erased from my memory. But I managed to pass exams well. Sometimes things got shown when I was passing some psychology tests. I was avoiding public speeches. Teachers suspected something. Sometimes I was not very logical when writing my papers. But that was all. Things changed when I was twenty two. My father got sick with cancer and died in a year. At that time I became paranoid and started to think people were after me on the Internet. I suspected lots of people to chase me. It went on for about three years, till I finally had a psychosis with voices and was sectioned. I had to give up chess from tiredness and memory lapses, and I've not been playing for three years already. Had to give up some good jobs too. Now looking back at all this, I see I might have been ill since childhood and was struggling all the time to be "not worse" than others, though it took all my energy. I couldn't manage to keep sane, but at least I managed to grow into a person. I managed not to do much harm in my life and be intelligent enough. I gained some good friends when I started to take meds. Meds made me socialize more. Life wasn't perfect, but I had some joy, and it's still not over. Pages of my life aren't counted yet.

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© Elena Grebennikova

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Stigma is never right

From my experience with bullies, some people managed to tell me I'm a "wrong" schizophrenic, as I haven't killed myself or someone else yet. I thought normal life is an achievement, and suicide or homicide can hardly be a good aim in life.

Never thought there'll ever come a time when I'll be struggling for sympathy among people thinking me a living nightmare. Always thought that being intelligent gets you acquaintances easily. I got used to be valued and respected, and not used to be humiliated just for being sick. So for me it seems like a big step to tag my twitter profile with #schizophrenia and to show my real name. I haven't got nothing but sympathy here in five years, so I decided it's alright.

I know some of my friends who have schizophrenia avoid talking about it online. And all shrinks tell me it's the right way to conceal things. So when I started this blog, I thought it to be just a secluded place to vent my thoughts. But I always felt it's so wrong that I should be trembling at the thought anyone can get to know my real name or shuddering at learning that another person blocked me or stopped talking when he/she learned something about me. It's not how life should be arranged. People shouldn't be obliged to hide their problems that may lead to suicide or just death if they give up meds.

I see so many people with cancer, depression, bipolar disorder and other illnesses expressing their views freely and getting some kind of relief from it. Schizophrenia shouldn't be a taboo. I know there're so many people suffering silently, not able to talk about illness openly. Some write from anonymous accounts on forums etc. It seems so unfair that those who are most vulnerable should defend from bullies.

I know what usually happens after disclosing illness. People either block you or see you as a punching clown. If no one will be doing anything about it, how is it going to change? They treat you like you should be thankful you aren't euthanized, and even if they tolerate those who conceal illness and cope well, but they're merciless to those who can't cope. Though everyone accepts cancer and other serious diseases as nothing to be ashamed of. If there were more people with schizophrenia "coming out from the shade", it might have changed that attitude.

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© Elena Grebennikova

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Frozen in Fear

P.T.S.D is like facing the evil eyes of the past and being frozen in place, all over again. 

I have experienced a lot of trauma in my short years of being alive: parental, sexual, physical and emotional abuse, drug addictions, depression and suicidality.  There is one more thing that has shaped me in the wrong way: violation. 

The other day while I was putting clothes away in my bedroom, I thought I heard a noise out of my window and I froze. I was like a deer in the headlights, caught in my tracks of yesteryears fear. I escaped my bedroom quickly and went into the windowless bathroom and focused on my breathing. Just like that, I was thrown into a pit of dark memories I wish I forgot. 

I ended up putting all the blinds down and made my house impenetrable to onlookers. I put all of my chaotic emotions into a poem to express how I felt and what happened (brandnewbipolar.com/poetry/violated). I hadn't thought about those fear stricken moments for years. It caught me entirely off guard. 

I was able to use breathing exercises and self care tools to get through the flashback but it is on my mind constantly. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle the next few days due to another traumatic event that occurred a few years ago today.  I'm alone in the house with the animals until I pick C up from work; I hope the animals are enough to keep me sane.

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© Jenna White

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Silly? Lazy? Sponger?

Was ruminating what I could have done or who I could have been if not my illness. The worst thing is that I can't organize myself and things when dealing with people. Managing interactions at work was impossible. Though I wouldn't mind better memory too. Without memory lapses and forgetfulness. But it doesn't depend on me. I try to develop memory as much as I can.

Seems constant exchange of information is the essence of life. But I'm bad at it. The thing is that exchange of info and communication is not the essence of life to me... I like solitude, ruminations and solitary activities.

Normal "friends" just can't stop bragging about their lives and pointing out how successful I could be if I wasn't "lazy" and that I "have no excuse". And I waste my time arguing with them. The fact is I don't need any excuses. I'm mentally disabled and I'm not lazy at all, trying hard to do what I can. Abulia doesn't differ from usual fatigue. It's even worse. Kind of an empty feeling, when you're not tired, still can't do anything.

But such people are very annoying. For them the conflict between wanting to do things and not being able to do - means you're bad and lazy. That's the reason why such people can't really be friends: instead of understanding you, they try to make you fulfill their requirements.

I have difficulty with telling people I'm disabled - it's no good. Telling them I'm mentally disabled - worse. They don't believe I'm sick, as I look normal. And if I look normal, they naturally think it means I'm pretending and I'm lazy. Though they don't see me in psychosis and I'm tired of people blaming and shaming me for being sick and not able to do things. And it's after five hospitalizations and disability! I'm not irritable, but when people keep telling me it's better for me to die than not to gain success... I get angry.

I seem to get more complaints than understanding from some people. They think I don't carry out my functions. That's most important for them. I started to suspect that for some people my mental illness is just another reason not to like me and to reproach me. As if it's a flaw and my fault. People would just use my mental illness to humiliate me. And if I can't understand them, they'd think me silly. And really - how would I prove I'm clever, if I have bad memory? When I'm reading books I'm like a dog that understands but can say nothing.

Some "friends" told me that they're good as they work, and I'm no good, as I don't work. And I don't know how to mend it. Feeling like a criminal. Should I only think of distant future that might never come, when I'll be able to carry out my functions in the society and will be respected again? Do mentally disabled people have no right to be respected just the way they are? Some call me "a sponger", as if I never did anything useful in my life. Though I'm glad I'm not the kind of a "consumer" that works twelve hours on a tedious unloved job and then watches TV all evening. I'd prefer to be "useless".

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Psychosis: how it works



As I asked other people who have schizophrenia, the symptoms vary much, but if I describe how it happen in my case, it won't do any worse. First I start to doubt the reality of this world. Strange mystical ideas come into my head quickly and stay there. Logic disappears. I start to be afraid of lots of people and things. The world becomes a very scary place inhabited by unknown evil forces. Then I usually imagine that god lives in me or talks through me. Later I start to talk to unknown creatures that I imagine who tell me something through my own thoughts. Or I imagine neighbours planning to do me harm. I think that all people in the world are reading my thoughts and talking to me. I see mystical symbolic "signs" everywhere. Every little thing becomes significant, as I become the centre of the world. I lose weight, have tachycardia and high blood pressure, stop to sleep and get into suicidal ideas. It usually ends up in the hospital, as I'm too scared to stay home in this state.  That's how it always gets along if I give up meds or take them not regularly. No psychotherapy changes it. And I'm not going to think myself weak or not clever enough, just because psychotherapy doesn't work for me. Meds work for me. I want to be sane and not to think about how to be "strong". I want to live without mystical ideas and have a clear brain. May I not be too clever because of illness, at least I'll keep my life straight.

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"Schizophrenia is not an illness"



I can already gather a collection of stories how friends, relatives and others say to me "schizophrenia is not an illness". I thought at first having an illness and disability automatically means that people perceive I'm different. But no. Imagine my relatives and friends pathetically screaming "schizophrenia is not an illness! It's your imagination! You can do anything and get anywhere!" They think I'm lazy, stupid, pretending to be sick, not having enough strength of will etc. Some of them even have medical education. I think it's comfortable for them to think as they do. Some think a schizophrenic must be a genius. I believe they should understand I'm trying to do best that I can, not to reproach me for lack of abilities. But they treat me just like they treat normals, without any considerations that I don't meet the criteria of a normal person at all. My relatives and my healthy friends expect too much from me. I'm used to their pressure that I must get healthy the sooner the better. They don't see I haven't ever been normal. I've been different since childhood. But they hardly noticed me when I was "healthy", now they only want me to fit in and not to bother them. This life is for healthy people. And you realize it when recovery is perceived as some “victory”. Hey, recovery is not a business achievement! Some people recover, and some might even get worse! It’s an individual process of healing that may take about ten years or more.Being "healthy" in our society seems to mean only to be able to work fulltime. They don't care for cognitive impairment. They only expect me to continue to earn my living somehow and appear normal. They don't care what's going on in my head. I got more frail as I got sick, but it's not written on my face. But they devalue my feelings just as they devalue the simole fact of my illness. If illness "doesn't exist", how can I be having mental problems: problems with communication and bad memory, excessive emotions, suicidal thoughts, paranoia and voices? No, it all JUST DOESN'T EXIST! And normals treat me as if I'm a healthier and stronger person than them, which is not true. They think they behave nice just not thinking about my illness and not noticing it, but they do harm easily, as I'm not stronger than them, just on the contrary. And I don't see any way to "prove" seemingly normal people that I'm not like them, as I don't have a visible wound in my head.

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About anti-psychiatry


As anyone watches me, one may notice that I've been always experimenting and trying new ways to cure. Just don't mistake it for the anti-psychiatry shit. I know some people with schizophrenia can live without medication, some can't. It's not our choice or our wish.

It's a necessity for me to take meds, as I know what will happen if I don't. First, I'll get elated from dopamine rise, then I'll get apathetic. And I'll be apathetic more and more for years. I won't be able to get up earlier than 3 pm. I'll have insomnia all the time, sometimes not able to sleep for two or three days in psychosis. Abulia will make me stop doing anything. Then, I'll develop paranoid ideas. I'll be suspicious and plots-seeking. From time to time I'll get psychoses: I'll lose weight to 36 kgs, have tachycardia and high blood pressure, delusions and voices. I might even die from it, if I don't take any meds. My logical thinking will disappear, and I'll turn to some religious or mystical things. I will be thinking up how people are plotting against me and I will be seeing "signs" and "allusions" everywhere. I might start stalking people on web from my paranoia (I'll be thinking that they're stalking me) and visit far-away cities in vain. I'll see everything as connected to me and perceive people as if they're trying to chase me and I'll see threatening hints everywhere. I'll quarrel with all of my friends and sit at home alone trying not to go out at all. Maybe lying in bed all day long with eyes and ears shut. I'll be often suicidal and may start to self-harm. Every little thing will paranoidly hurt me, and real hurts will hurt me even more. I'll be planning ways to end up my own life all the time.

I don't want such life. So I've been taking meds for three years already, and except times when I tried to give them up, hoping for psychotherapy to help, I have a much better life than before. How can people be so cruel and insensitive to require the mentally ill "not to be silly" and "to live like normals" and "to throw away meds"? It's just ignorance and pure silliness.

We may have nice hopes when looking at those in good remission, but not forget that it's just luck and every case of schizophrenia is not going to be so cheerful. If febrile schizophrenia develops, people may die from it. So those who expect all mentally ill people to throw away meds and think themselves healthy, but "mauled by evil therapists" and "victims of mind control system", - are silly and dangerous themselves.

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Once I was standing in the middle of a crowd in a subway. I wanted to jump under the train. I felt so detached from everything, and people seemed somehow artificial, as though they existed in a separate reality from me. I was trapped into my delusional world of paranoia.

7 years passed, I got into the hospital, was diagnosed, had some inner struggles and personality changing, was sectioned three more times. Things got better, and I didn't have any delusions anymore. My thoughts were in the right order. I managed some work, and things seemed not so bad. But isolation started away silently and unnoticeably. The more people learned something about me, the more I became isolated. Relatives smiled at me and told some shit behind my back. "She has to be disabled", "When will she hang herself?", "She's silly". Friends shunned me. Those who I told anything about my mental illness drifted away, and those who knew nothing were very conscious I was hiding something from them. The few people with schizophrenia I knew could do me no better. They only wanted to discuss their symptoms. Some shrinks showed interest in me, but they only thought of me as a case to study, and I realized it too late. All communication broke down.

It got worse every time I was sectioned. Those were the times I thought of myself as bad as the people around me. I thought myself silly and unworthy and not able to fit in. I forgot about my illness and judged myself through the eyes of healthy people. All my self-dignity was lost, my achievements forgotten. I felt the circle of normals narrowing around me and judging me.

I wouldn't bother if they judged me for being a criminal or for any other activity that set me out from the rest. I was quite alone since childhood, always bullied and shunned. Only my interests and my friends mattered anything to me. I didn't care for people's opinion. But then I wasn't so overall isolated. I had some friends and people who sympathized with me. I could afford myself not to give a damn as I had those who liked me and helped me in life, I had my own circle of acquaintances and didn't care about the world. Then it all broke down. Were all friends fake and all good prospects in life only a dream? I don't know. Mostly I had been telling lies to my friends not to frighten them. I was afraid they'd stop talking to me if they knew I had schizophrenia. Some truth revealed, I was just laughed at and met with misunderstanding. I was supposed to feel guilty in my illness.

Now I may take a walk, and there're so many people on the streets, and I'm supposed to be worse than any of them. Every little thing seems to be a sign of illness. My words turn to symptoms. I seem to even clean my teeth in a special way.

And the lack of emotional intelligence makes it hard to prove anything to people. I can't communicate properly. They think I "got what I deserved", even if they're atheists. The simpliest thing that no one is guilty in mental illness is beyond their thinking. I'm just too kind and indulgent to people, trying to understand why they all drifted apart. And I only hear from them - "you're bad, you're guilty in your troubles".

  It turns out I feel like a criminal with normals who know nothing about me and behave like a normal person with those who know the truth. I can't switch between telling lies mode and trusting mode. I'm puzzled because I live in two worlds. The ultimate version of a typical normal's view is "you're good, but you're not trying enough, so you're bad", "and if you are not trying enough, you're really sick and bad forever, you're silly and there's nothing to talk about with you". I'm tired of this shit. Then they make it worse: "you take meds - it means your place is in the residential home", "you want a simple job - it means you're silly and dangerous". I can't breathe from hurt.

I remember times when I ruined the remaining mental health trying to prove to people I'm "clever enough". I managed well, but I had relapses and ruined my health. And it was all in vain. They never stopped calling me silly. I surely have some problems with memory, and there's some stumbling in my brain, when thoughts are interrupted and I have to reconstruct the whole line of thoughts from the beginning. I can be paranoid sometimes. I'm often tired and apathetic. But I didn't lose my ability to do things I already learned. My thinking is more clear than lots of normals' thinking, and it actually improved since I became ill and started to take meds. I'm doing the best I can in my state.

But I understood no amount of thinking or work can prove people I'm good. I'm just a dangerous animal for them. And I'll stop losing friends when I stop telling them about myself. I'm alone with my illness and sorrows and can't talk about it. I just have to be careful not to relapse again. All new acquaintances started to resemble a hide-n-seek. I can't be truthful, so I have to avoid lots of topics, think up my biography and to tell lies about almost everything. I'm no more isolated with people than alone with myself. It's even better in solitude.

And if I watch people on the streets, I think no more of their inner beauty or good aspirations. I only think of the way they would treat me if they knew something about me, and isolation traps me.

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They'll Never get Better

Support is a vital component in life.  It doesn’t matter your age, race, religion or if you have a mental illness, physical disability or you’re healthy as an ox; a term my grandma would often say. We all need support from family and friends at precise periods of our life.  We should be supportive to those who have helped us, and to someone we may barely know.  If you battle with mental illness, support from your therapist and psychiatrist typically isn’t enough.  For most, support from family members and friends is critical to our well-being. Now, there are many individuals who not only battle with their mental illness.  They have to battle stigma and misconception from the same family members and friends who give them no support.  Love ones should take the time to understand what you’re going through and learn from others, how you struggle and fight daily with your mental illness.  Learning and understanding will stop the stigma and in most instances open them up to listening, assisting their love one in getting through tough periods when your mental illness can knock you down, again, and again.

Below is an excerpt from my book “Welcome to My Our Hell”

Chapter 4: Understanding Mental Illness: Bricks and Sprinklers

During a group session at the outpatient program I attended, a woman talked about how her family wouldn’t listen to her when she attempted to explain her mental illness. They also had no desire or had not even attempted to understand her mental illness and created their own conclusions and misconceptions. Family members would call her a home body, and tell others that she prefers to stay in her dark, lonely bedroom, hiding from the world. She explained that among all the family members to add their two cents or hurtful comments, her dad’s comments and his unwillingness to accept her illness, devastated her emotionally and hurt her the most. I remember the sadness in her eyes, the tears rolling down her face, and she had the look of someone who had given up on life.

This not only hit home with me, but with almost everyone who suffers from a mental illness, has had the same issue with people not understanding or drawing their own conclusions about mental illness and continuing to build a wall of stigma. So I understood their frustration and that day in group session I not only understood this woman’s situation and frustration, but I could feel the emotional devastation she had suffered due to her family just giving up on her. I’ve had the same experiences with family and friends. Many of them would call me a home body and it drove me absolutely crazy. I’ve always enjoyed going out, doing activities with friends and family. But the truth was that my addiction to pain medication and the severity of my mental illness kept me a prisoner. All I wanted was to be left alone. I rarely made an appearance at a family event or function, and if I did make an appearance, my body was in attendance but not my mind. When I didn’t show up for events, friends, my kids and my wife would just tell people he’s having a bad day, his back is really bothering him. They were telling the truth and giving me exactly what I wanted; time to be left alone. I’m not sure how many times friends and family members, explained to people that I was having a bad day or made excuses for me; but it had to be a couple hundred times.

That’s just one of the many ways we drag our loved ones through hell with us. So when a friend or family member called me a home body during that period, they were just being honest. Now that I take my medications, use coping skills, and enjoy life every day, I haven’t heard the word homebody in a long time. I just wonder how many times my friends and family members thought, he’ll never get better.

I always wonder about certain individuals who had no support system, and others who lived alone. Does the statement, “they’ll never get better”, apply to most of them and will it be their outcome. I don’t believe it has to be. With increased government funding to mental health charities, and just not the big charities or the research groups. We need funding and donations to help smaller groups who are making a difference in the community, working with and providing opportunity to people with mental health disorders.

If you battle, anything can happen!

My son was around ten years old and there was one thing he really desired; a snake. Now I’m not a snake fan, however he did work around the house to make some money and my wife and I helped purchase the snake and glass aquarium and other items. To feed this young and growing snake, we had to purchase mice every week or whatever the correct eating schedule is for a snake. Now you have to flick the mouse with your finger or smack the mouse against the glass aquarium the snake live in. This stuns the mouse so they won’t bite the snake. One week my son had a stubborn mouse, my son beat that mouse all over his bedroom, and it never passed out or died. Until this day, I have no idea how that little mouse stayed alive. Finally, my son fed the snake another mouse and decided to kill the first mouse and throw it away. However, my daughter would have none of that and came to the rescue.

My daughter took the time to give support to this little mouse. This mouse, which should have been dead, and till this day, I’m not sure why he wasn’t. After a few days, that little mouse got up and started walking and eating; that’s when my daughter named the little mouse Miracle. About two weeks later, I heard a continuous sound coming from upstairs. I went upstairs and both the kids were sleeping, however the sound was coming from my daughter’s room. My daughter had bought Miracle a hamster wheel, and he was running on that wheel like there was no tomorrow. For the rest of his life, he ran on that wheel and gave great joy to my daughter; all due to the support of one little girl, who never gave up on that little mouse named Miracle.

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Rapid Cycling

"How do you know if you're out of control?" Sadly, you hardly notice at all. 

In my years of living with bipolar, I have only been able to notice and anticipate my cycles this year. I had finally stopped using hard drugs or ones that were not prescribed to me for self-care. I should have realised that even taking medications that aren't given to me by a doctor is really unhealthy because it can affect the chemicals in the body and cause adverse effects. In the time that I began my real journey of recovery and self-awareness I have been able to spot the elevated or dropping moods by monitoring through writing. I'm not even that good at it, but it is a good start.   

I can't wait until I have a family doctor so I can talk to them about the fact I think I go through rapid cycles. The criteria of rapid cycling is if a person had 4 or more manic or depressive phases within one year. I can 100% guarantee I have experienced that in this year. Going through my old blogs I can pinpoint the weeks of these cycles, so it will be easier for my physician to document. Maybe this will result in a medication change but I can't do that myself, I refuse to unless I can't handle the side effects.

The best that I can do right now is keep doing what I'm doing. Writing, talking and taking care of my physical health. If I don't then my school and my mental health will suffer, not to mention possibly failures of relationships. I don't want to go through any of that again so all I can do is follow through. 

Here are some more links to help better understand the facts behind rapid cycling :
Rapid Cycling within Bipolar Disorder II
Rapid Cycling and Mixed "Waves" 
​Frequently Asked Questions about Rapid Cycling

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