The Trouble with Medication

I have been having a lot of trouble with medication, including both antidepressants and antipsychotics. This is my personal view, it in no way means that you will have the same experience or that you should cease to take your medication.

First of all, each time you take a new medication or switch medications, you’re left with the 6 – 8 weeks waiting period before they begin to take full effect. That typically means around 8 weeks of hell before you start to get better, and that’s if the medication you are taking is right for you. As a lot of the time, it’s merely a guessing game until your find the right medication or mix of medications that work for you. I am yet to find that medication. Dosage changes can also have a big impact on how the medication will effect a person; I know many people who were fine with a medication to have the dosage increased and then they are unable to continue to take it. The side effects of antidepressants and antipsychotics can be enough to make people not want to take them, although the side effects are different for everyone. Finally, the medication may work for a person for a certain length of time, then cease to work, making them change medications and once again participate in the guessing game of finding the correct one.

The first medication I had a bad experience with was Prozac which is an antidepressant. As I am prone to severe manic episodes which can be triggered by almost anything and everything, I should never have been placed on an antidepressant in the first place. I had at least 4 appointments with my psychiatrist cancelled consecutively, which left me on Prozac for 2 or 3 months; during which I lost almost all of my money, weight and pretty much anything good in my life at the time.

After that, I found myself threatened with hospitalization in order to ‘correct’ my medication. I refused, and was put on an antipsychotic called Seroquel. My experience with Seroquel hasn’t been all that great due to the fact that it has no effect and is useless to me. The longer I am on it the more my brain feels like it is ‘shutting down’. I personally feel that it is doing just as much if not more damage to my brain than the disorder itself. This is another issue that concerns me with antipsychotics, brain damage and brain shrinkage caused by the medicine which has been shown in multiple studies.

As I also suffer from extremely severe insomnia, I have been given a vast variety of sleeping tablets and benzodiazepines which also have taken no effect on myself.

All of the above is what is leading me to question the effectiveness of medication, although I could continue in the search for the right medication it does seem pointless so far. Which leaves me with the option of living through hell or being brain dead (due to years of medication). Stuck between a rock and hard place here.

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Mindfulness: Part II

This is a follow up article to my previous article on mindfulness; if you have not read the first article you can do so by clicking here. In this article I will be focusing on various methods which help a person to become more mindful.

Meditation

Meditation is definitely my favourite way of practising mindfulness. This is because I have reaped the most benefits from using this method in my experience.

Meditation is most effective when performed every day. However, for beginners it can be hard to meditate as they either do not know what they are doing or are struggling to meditate for a length period of time. Therefore I’d recommend beginning meditating for 5 minutes a day until you get the hang of it, then steadily increase the length of time to 10 minutes, then 15 and so on. I have found that meditating for 20 – 30 minutes a day is the most ideal; or to meditate in the morning for 15 minutes, followed by another meditation of 15 minutes in the evening.

Basic Meditation

To begin meditating, sit crossed legged on the floor or on a cushion or mat for more comfort. Do not slouch and keep the crown of your head facing upwards, rest your hands on your lap and use your thumbs to create a bridge with each other. You can either close your eyes or keep them slightly open, I prefer to keep mine closed. Focus on your breathing whilst breathing in and out of your nose, after focusing on this for a short while, begin to breathe naturally. You will begin to think all kinds of thoughts, however, these thoughts are just ‘clouds’ that are passing by, you are aware of them but do not focus on them or on one particular thought. Simply acknowledge them, and let them pass by. Meditation is not the absent of thoughts, rather it is the practise of mental stillness. Set a timer for your chosen duration, and practise this routinely.

Yoga

Yoga is an amazing tool for stress relief and becoming mindful as it requires you to understand how your body works and be aware of your own body in order to perform more complex poses. Another benefit of yoga is that as well as being great for your mental health, it is also great for your physical health.

There are various types of yoga, but it is important to start with the basics, and then to move on and either specialise in one type of yoga, or mix it up and as you improve your posture, balance and strength; do more complex poses.

Mindfulness in Everyday Life

By doing some small and simple things, we can become more mindful in everyday life. By acknowledging our thoughts, feelings and senses as they occur, we being to understand them better, and can see things from a new perspective.

When following the same every day routine, we often become machine like, and do not notice many things. When you begin to pay attention to the small things, it can have a very big impact on how you see the world.

Mindfulness can be very rewarding and can improve all aspects of your life. It is a wonderful tool that can be used and benefited by all, including those with mental illness in particular.

Schizoaffective Disorder and Relationships

Relationships can be difficult enough without the addition of a mental illness thrown into the mix. A mental illness can create lots of barriers and obstacles in a relationship, and even in friendship. However, in this article I will be focusing on romantic relationships.

Firstly, when you have a mental illness, you often spend a lot of your time ‘in your own head’ rather than focusing on the real world. This can leave a person with barely any time to make and maintain relationships. With schizoaffective disorder, the symptoms of the illness can cause a lot of problems within a relationship.

How the Negative Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder affect Relationships

To begin with, I have withdrawn myself socially; meaning that I do not get the chance to make relationships, let alone maintain them. Social isolation makes building relationships to be almost impossible. Secondly, due to a loss of motivation in activities and everyday life, I am not interested or capable of doing what would be considered to be ‘normal’ activities within a relationship, such as going on dates or being out in public in general.

I have found cognitive impairment to be one of the most difficult obstacles in a relationship. A lack of concentration can make it extremely hard to take part in conversation, and as communication is a key part of being in a relationship, it is a huge obstacle to cross. Memory deficits also become an issue, as we can often forget meaningful conversations or events that have occurred with our significant other.

Inappropriate emotional responses can leave our significant other to believe we are purposely being rude, ignorant or just plain mean, even though this is not what we intended. Another issue is that our significant other may think that we are not happy with them due to what it is known as the ‘flat affect’ which is when a person has a blank facial expression and appears emotionless.

An obvious issue is the sexual problems related to the illness and the medications used to treat the illness. This may affect our libido, or even prove it to be tremendously hard to achieve an orgasm. As sex is seen as an important part of a relationship to the majority of people, this can make it difficult for people to stay in a relationship with us.

How the Positive Symptoms of Schizoaffective Disorder affect Relationships

The positive symptoms of schizoaffective disorder can have a great impact on relationships.

Paranoia and delusions can leave us believing that our partner is cheating on us; and constantly feeling paranoid is not healthy for any relationship. Hallucinations can leave us very distracted, and leave our partner feeling that we do not give them enough attention. As there is such a large variety of types of delusions, they can lead to a large variety of problems.

Thought disorder can also lead to many problems, as they can cause problems in both speech and writing, which can make it very hard to understand what we are trying to convey through conversation.

 

In conclusion, being in a relationship with someone who suffers from any mental illness can be difficult. However, everyone deserves love and although relationships with people suffering from a mental illness can be difficult, they can also be very rewarding; and often with time, our partners can learn to understand our illness and help us along the road to recovery.

Cognitive Impairment: Attention Deficits

Recently I have found it tremendously hard to focus on anything. As soon as I begin a task, my mind has already moved on to the next one; resulting in trying to do way too many things at once which usually ends up with nothing being completed.

Not only does my mind drift from task to task, it’s sifting its way through many distracting thoughts. In addition to this, there is also the issue of memory and hallucinations. As I have previously mentioned, I have terrible memory problems, both short term and long term. Hallucinations add to the distractions; particularly auditory hallucinations, as you really can’t hear yourself think.

Concentration / Attention Deficits

Being able to pay attention and concentrate is the ability to identify relevant stimuli, then to focus on that stimuli rather than others, and sustain focus on the stimuli till without becoming distracted in the presence of other stimuli. Cognitive impairment prevents those suffering from it to be able to pay attention, process new information, respond to information, remember and recall information, as well as the ability to think critically, plan and organize information. Therefore it makes the smallest of tasks to be far more difficult, and at times, impossible.

For example, lately I have found it far more difficult to write. Whereas before I could easily write a 1000 word article within an hour, now I can barely write a few hundred words within a couple of hours. However, to try and cope with this I usually write a couple of sentences throughout the day and hope it will be completed by the evening.

In my personal opinion, cognitive impairment is one of the most debilitating and devastating aspect of mental illness; it can take so much away from you and leave you incapable of doing many of the things you previously could. Which is why I’m having a particularly hard time with this at the current moment, it very much is a case of spiralling downwards and never knowing when you’re going to stop falling.

The Misconceptions of Schizoaffective Disorder

There are many misconceptions about schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar. This is due to the lack of education surrounding mental health. Many of these misconceptions can increase the level of stigma which people suffering from these illnesses are exposed to. Therefore it is important to address these misconceptions.

Misconception #1

Schizophrenia is dissociative identity disorder (previously known as multiple personality disorder).

Dissociate identity disorder (DID) is characterized by at least two separate and distinct personalities or split identities in a person. People suffering from DID may experience psychotic symptoms, but it is in no way related to schizophrenia. The majority of people suffering from DID refer to their other identities or personalities as their alters; each has their own age, sex, race, gender as well as their own postures, gestures, and distinct way of talking.

Misconception #2

People with schizophrenia are violent.

This is one of the most common misconceptions, which I believe to be the result of the stigma that is produced by the media in the way which people with schizophrenia are portrayed. People with schizophrenia are no more or less prone to violence than those without the disorder. However, delusions and hallucinations can cause a person to become extremely frightened and distressed, resulting in abstract behaviour; not necessarily violent behaviour.

Misconception #3

Schizophrenia is untreatable.

Although there is no cure for schizophrenia, it can be managed effectively through the use of medication and a wide range of therapy.

Misconception #4

People with schizophrenia can’t live productive and fulfilling lives.

As stated above, schizophrenia can be managed effectively, and those suffering from the illness can continue to lead productive and fulfilling lives. Although it can make leading a ‘normal’ life quite challenging, it is still possible for those suffering from the illness to attend school or work, have a family and a social life.

Misconception #5

The effects of antipsychotic medication is worse than the illness itself.

Antipsychotic medication can cause negative side effects, however, they are very good at treating psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia. Modern antipsychotics aim to minimise the negative side effects of the medication whilst still being effective to treat the disorder. Certain medications won’t work for certain people, it is often the case of trying to find the right one for the said person.

Misconception #6

Bipolar disorder is just another name for mood swings.

The mood swings associated with bipolar are tremendously different to those experienced in people without the disorder.

Misconception #7

During a manic episode, the person suffering from bipolar is very happy and euphoric.

Happiness and euphoria can be experienced during a manic episode, however, anger, agitation and irritability can also be experienced during a manic episode.

Misconception #8

People with bipolar change rapidly between mania and depression.

Although this can be the case for some, which is known as ‘rapid cycling’, people with bipolar can experience both long lasting depression and mania.

Misconception #9

Schizoaffective disorder is the same as schizophrenia.

Schizoaffective disorder and schizophrenia are two separate illnesses. Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by having both symptoms of bipolar disorder and schizophrenia present together.

Abandoned Buildings

I don’t know why, but I always find comfort in abandoned places. It’s most likely the solitude, along with nothing but the sounds of nature. Nature is very therapeutic to be around.

This is a place secluded on the hills and confined by nature. It is a very beautiful place with a very beautiful view. It was originally a farm, which became derelict over the past few decades. A lot of the original building has collapsed, resulting in the majority of it being destroyed, as well as leaving the staircase to the first floor of the house unreachable. Over the years there has been damaged caused to the windows which were still intact, as well as the wooden doors and the roofing of these buildings. Nature has begun to reclaim this place, covering it in sheets of ivy and moss.

Paranoia or Intuition?

Lately, I have found it to be extremely difficult to differentiate between the two. Personally, I think a little paranoia is always a good thing, however, when it gets to the point that it is debilitating, it is far from being a good thing.

I’ve never had an experience where my intuition has been wrong, therefore I have relied on my intuition in many situations, and still do. My intuition has saved myself from many sticky situations, and got me out of the wrong places at just the right time to avoid consequence. When I’ve ignored my intuition, I’ve ended up in some pretty bad places. This makes my paranoia all that more worse; it can be almost impossible to tell when I’m being intuitive, or just straight up paranoid.

The Differences between Paranoia and Intuition

Intuition is the ability to understand or foreshadow something instinctively, without the use of conscious reasoning. Whereas paranoia is unjustified suspicion, and the mistrust of other people.

Intuition tends to come from a non-emotional neutral position, and often inspires a person to take action. Intuition quite often will not make sense, however, it will feel right; or wrong, depending on the situation you are in. The feeling of intuition typically persists.

Paranoia often comes from a negative emotion such as fear, anger or sadness, which often instigates a reaction of the said person, rather than compelling them to take action about whatever it is they are currently worrying about. Paranoia can come in waves; you may be extremely paranoid one day, and see how ridiculous it was the next.

 

These are the greatest differences I have found between the two, however, this does not stop the line from being blurred; especially when you suffer from a mental disorder in which paranoia can become crippling so to speak. At times, every glance, every word you hear, will all hold some significant meaning, which will seem very real at the time. Hallucinations may also add to the paranoia, particularly auditory hallucinations. Hearing voices telling you that yes, these people are following you, can be absolutely terrifying.

Paranoia is intuitions ugly sister, and when she hits, she hits hard.

Drugs and Schizoaffective Disorder

 

This is a follow up post to my previous article: Alcohol and Schizoaffective disorder. In this post I’ll be talking about the impact of different drugs on those suffering from schizoaffective disorder, as well as my experience with different drugs and how they have affected my mental health. It is important to take into consideration that I turned to drugs to self-medicate over 18 months after I had begun suffering from this illness, not before. Drugs can induce psychosis in a person, however this will almost always cease after the person stops consuming drugs, unless there was already an underlying psychiatric illness.

Similarly to alcohol, many sufferers of mental illness use a vast range of drugs to self-medicate, both legal and illegal. This can include ‘every day’ drugs, such as caffeine and nicotine; as well as illegal drugs such as marijuana, LSD, cocaine and amphetamines. Drugs such as marijuana, LSD, cocaine and amphetamines, can trigger the symptoms of schizophrenia in those who are predisposed to the illness, or trigger a relapse in those who are already suffering from the disorder. However, they can also cause drug induced psychosis, which is not permanent and will typically cease when the consumption of the drugs is stopped. This can make it difficult in differentiating between schizophrenia and drug induced psychosis.

Both legal and illegal drugs can trigger manic, depressive, and mixed episodes in people suffering from a mood disorder such as bipolar and schizoaffective disorder. During episodes, people may use multiple drugs to self-medicate; this is seen particularly during manic episodes, as many people do become reckless and act on impulse, making illegal drugs far more appealing. However, typically depressive substances such as marijuana and alcohol may make the symptoms subside for a short while, but lead to ill effects later on. Other drugs, typically cocaine and amphetamines, can exaggerate the symptoms of the disorder.

Therefore it is recommended that those suffering from schizoaffective disorder, schizophrenia and bipolar refrain from drug use; including legal drugs.

Personal Experiences

Over the years I have consumed many different drugs, both legal and illegal. However, I can say that legal drugs have had more of a negative impact on myself rather than the illegal drugs. Although I do not recommend using illegal drugs, for obvious reasons. The worst experience I’ve had with any drug has to be Prozac. It almost immediately sent me into a manic episode and resulted in me losing a lot of weight, money, and time doing reckless things. It lead to severe agitation.

As much as I would like to discuss my personal experiences with illegal drugs, I will also refrain from that for once again, obvious reasons.

Cognitive Impairment – Memory Deficits

Ever since mental illness first affected my life, the memory problems soon set in. I cannot remember anything from my childhood, and have frequent gaps in my memory of multiple things that I cannot recall. They can be simple things, such as menial tasks, but also significant events.

One story I was told, was that when I went to pick my wages up from a friend’s house, he wasn’t there so I sat with the two other people who live there, and became extremely catatonic for at least an hour. Then took my wages and left. However, I cannot recall that day at all; it may as well just be a fictional story as far as I’m concerned.

Over the years I’ve had many of these experiences. It feels as if my memory worsens increasingly day by day. It’s surprising how much memory loss can affect your day to day life. Both my short term and long term memory has been affected. It can certainly be upsetting or distressing, as it can affect many aspects of your life. It is particularly hard to learn and retain any new knowledge, as well as recall knowledge which was previously learned. Writing becomes difficult; spelling, punctuation, grammar, it can all be affected.

Cognitive impairment is something that has affected me greatly, and I absolutely hate it. I find it one of the hardest parts of dealing with this illness, as I can see how much it has taken away from me.

Disorganized Thoughts and Behaviour

Disorganized thoughts are something I’ve been struggling a lot with lately; making it increasingly difficult to write, communicate, or do anything for that matter.

What are Disorganized Thoughts?

When a person is experiencing disorganized thinking it can be extremely difficult to concentrate as thoughts can come and go rapidly. Resulting in the person being easily distracted and unable to focus. At times, thoughts cannot be organized into logical sequences, therefore making the thoughts become disorganized and fragmented.

Disorganized thinking becomes noticeable to others during conversation. This is because those affected by disorganized thinking will often lose their train of thought during conversations, or they may jump from subject to subject at random even when the subjects are not associated with each other, as well as speech becoming that disorganized that it may not make sense at all.

What is Disorganized Behaviour?

There are four key noticeable areas when looking at disorganized behaviour. These include a decline in daily functioning, a lack of inhibition and impulse control, unpredictable or inappropriate emotional responses, and behaviour that appears to be bizarre or have no real purpose. However, the range of severity of disorganized behaviour can be drastic. Whereas disorganized behaviour can involve a neglect of self-care behaviours, it can also include things such as not dressing according to the weather, or they may continuously mutter to themselves. With disorganized behaviour almost anything is possible.

A decline in daily functioning may cause the person to become unhygienic, stop eating or drinking and such behaviours; rendering them unable to look after themselves. A lack of inhibition and impulse control can lead to dangerous or risk taking behaviours, which can threaten the affected person’s safety.  Unpredictable and inappropriate emotional responses may cause the person to appear happy when receiving bad news, and seem sad when receiving good news. This can affect the person’s relationships with others as they may appear to be rude and arrogant, when this is not the case. Bizarre behaviour, or behaviour with no real purpose can include almost anything; such as any of the things that were previously mentioned (continuously muttering to themselves).

Coping with Disorganized Thoughts and Behaviour

Coping with disorganized thoughts and behaviour can be particularly difficult as well as distressing for the affected person. It also comes with the obstacle of a lack of insight, making us unaware as to what is really going on. This can also lead to isolation if others do not respond well to the way we are currently behaving. Therefore I do not have any methods of coping with disorganized thoughts and behaviour, other than mindfulness meditation. I previously mentioned this in another article; mindfulness meditation allows the affected person to deal with their thoughts and feelings in a healthier way. Furthermore, the more mindfulness meditation is practised, the more effective it will become.