ponedeljek, 25. januar 2010

Trust the Man — or Woman

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of self-observation. Nonetheless sometimes we are in denial. We get the usual symptoms, but we think we are all-right. This is the time when people who live with us can help. It is very helpful if we live with at least one person we can trust. Thus this person can tell us that we are behaving in an unusual way.

I read often on different internet sites that the people we live with do not understand us. Sometimes this can be true. However sometimes we can get this feeling because we are in denial. Thus our goal could be to learn to differentiate between two separate cases: 1. The people we live with really do not understand us. 2. The people we live with are trying to warn us about the worsening of our mental health, but we are not ready to listen.

By listening to our partners, parents, siblings etc. we will show them we trust them. This will make them feel good and they will take even better care of us. I know there are people who do not have anyone they can trust. All I can say is I wish them they meet somebody nice. For mental illness can really be a pest, if you are facing it all alone.

In October of 2003 my last schizoaffective episode set in. It was my third one. However for my future husband it was the first one to observe. It was a shock for him to see somebody completely lose their mind. Especially because that somebody was me – his girl-friend at that time. I wrote more about that mental illness episode in my book, but let me give you a short version here. I could have prevented this episode by admitting to myself that I was manic. Instead I chose to be “too clever” and not to listen to anyone – neither to my psychiatrist, nor to my future husband. It only dawned on me that I needed anti-psychotic pills, when I started imagining I was the second Jesus Christ. Then I was put in the locked ward of a psychiatric clinic willingly and I swallowed all medication without rebelling. I stayed in the locked ward only for a few days. Then the doctors let me spend the weekend with my husband, for he assured them that I was behaving a lot better having received the proper medication at the clinic. I spent another two months in an unlocked ward, but kept going home for weekends.

This story could have been the last chapter of our relationship and of course he would not have become my husband in 2007 then. Instead we survived as a couple. I also learned to listen to him, when he warns me of my early symptoms. I always see my psychiatrist soon enough to prevent an episode. My willingness to listen to my husband is one of the reasons I can call the 2003-episode the last one today.

You can ask me more about my experience with mental illness: bb.bukle@gmail.com.

ponedeljek, 18. januar 2010

Nosce te ipsum. — Know yourself.

The relationship between a psychiatrist and a patient is a very complex thing. I will probably never understand it fully. However as a patient I have come to a conclusion that in my opinion is very important. I believe it helps if we see ourselves as equally clever as our psychiatrists. It might seem too bold of me to say a thing like that, but let me explain. The psychiatrist has enormous theoretical knowledge and also broad knowledge of differences between individual patients. However I as a patient am the only one that is present 24 hours a day. In other words: I can observe myself all the time, whereas my doctor cannot. Thus in my opinion the winning combination is to join the general knowledge of the psychiatrist and my knowledge of what is going on in my mind 24 hours a day. In my opinion this way of thinking also eliminates the very common feeling of being subordinate to the psychiatrist, which usually evokes anger in the patient and is thus not constructive.

In order to be able to give the psychiatrist relevant information about us we should obtain the habit of observing ourselves. This is not easy. But we can try. A useful suggestion might be a diary with short notes like: “slept well” or “slept only for two hours”, “felt sad” or “felt too happy”. If we show such a diary to our doctors, they will be able to discern some patterns. For example my psychiatrist was able to find out that my symptoms worsen just before my period. This means that the premenstrual syndrome makes also my schizoaffective disorder worse. Subsequently this observation helps me, because I do not take myself very seriously the week before the period. I know it’s the hormones that disturb my brain and make me behave badly. It’s not me as a personality that is annoying and difficult.

By writing short notes of our activities, we can also find out what the triggers of our symptoms are. For example: “stayed out late” and “had trouble falling asleep” one after another in the diary could suggest we better go to bed early.

Let Let me give you an example of how I handle my sleeping. Sleeping disorders were always the first symptom of my schizoaffective episodes. Thus with years I became afraid of not being able to fall asleep in the evening. This fear made it even more difficult for me to fall asleep.

Therefore I started observing myself and in a few years I have come to the following conclusions:

I should be in bed at 11 pm the latest.

I should not work or have an exciting conversation after 7 pm. Evening parties are to be avoided.

I should not work at weekends.

If the day is stressful, I need relaxation activities in the evening: massage, incense, chamomile tea, soft instrumental music.

After the relaxation techniques I just lie down and keep repeating silently in my head: “Just Exist.” or “It’s time for sleeping.”

When my thoughts get very annoying, I imagine they are clouds drifting away from me. I do not try to fight against them.

I am usually successful and fall asleep before midnight.

You can ask me more about my experience with mental illness: bb.bukle@gmail.com.

ponedeljek, 04. januar 2010

The Big Picture

Yesterday my husband and I were ascending a hill nearby. The path was steep. I got tired even before we reached the peak of the hill. However after the magnificent views had opened up on the top of the hill my fatigue vanished. I was delighted to be able to see “the big picture” of our town and of the neighborhood. It was a very clear day. One could see very far away. At that point I understood how the landscape in the neighborhood was formed. I could see where our block of flats is situated and how you can get from one end of the town to the other.

The whole scene much resembled those moments in life, when you get “the big picture” of your problem and already see the solution. It usually happens just before you would have given up. After months or even years of trying to figure a way out of a difficult situation suddenly there is new hope. Sometimes you find new information that helps you solve the problem in a book or on the internet. Sometimes a specific new person comes into your life that is able to help you or show you the way. Or something else happens that helps solve the problem.

For example I wanted to live without antipsychotic medication for years. I thought: “If I can live without medication, it means I am cured.” I did not want to accept my mental illness. Thus I was not accepting the medication either. However about a year ago I finally accepted my schizoaffective disorder. I felt so relieved that I wanted to write a book about my experience with this mental illness. So I started writing in October 2008. While writing the book I always felt as if I was on the top of a hill. I got “the big picture” that enables me to write by reading a lot of self-help books, by attending self-help seminars. And also by analyzing my personality, my past and by doing a lot of mental exercises.

I received a comment to my previous blog per e-mail. The person who wrote it mentioned the importance of being as well informed about your illness as possible. I could not agree more with that way of thinking. All I can add is something I have read in the famous book by H. C. Cutler and His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV (The Art of Happiness. A Handbook for Living. Chapter 8: Facing Suffering. Pages 133—148. Riverhead Books: 1998). The Dalai Lama names three causes of suffering. Ignorance is one of them. So enjoy researching in order to get “the big picture” of your situation. This will make it easier to find a solution to the problem.

You can ask me more about my experience with mental illness: bb.bukle@gmail.com.