hospital

The Way I Deal With Obsessive and Addictive Behaviours Along With My Psychosis

(Blog after photo)

This is another of the beautiful buildings in Edmonton, Canada Place. During construction I worked in this ornate structure with my Dad, painting numbers on stairwells in at least six fifteen storey stairwells. I had two other jobs plus full-time school at the time.

So, I can’t really tell you if I have an obsessive compulsive disorder. I do know that I often feel compelled to do funny things. As a child it may be touching every light pole as I walked past it, then it festered and grew to not stepping on cracks in the sidewalk. Soon I began to do increasingly odd things. Comic books seemed harmless until I hoarded and amassed thousands and protected them as though my life depended on them. Before that it was stamps, after that it was military clothing. At fourteen I ended up in psychiatric care and was given medication but no diagnosis. On leaving, though I would often dress up in camouflage or even military work uniforms around the house, I stopped doing it when I went to school. That was the age of alcohol and arcades, cigarettes and all-night sessions in front of the TV on school nights. Quitting any of these habits was so hard, but I showed little foresight knowing things like booze and smokes would ruin my life many years early. Every teenager seems to think they will magically quit before cancer sets in and that they themselves had discovered things like sex, drugs, and alcohol.

At nineteen, I made a vow to quit drinking. I went to meetings, tried to stay away from bars and managed to get six months of clean time in. Unfortunately I became more addicted to cigarettes and had a wicked addiction to coffee, all hours of the night and day. It all finally came to a head when I was in my 30s and I made some coffee one morning and lit up a cigarette, finished it and had another. Then I threw up on the kitchen floor. Something had to be done.

Persons with schizophrenia can have a very hard time quitting tobacco. It has been found that tobacco affects some of the same neurotransmitters that psychiatric medications do. It actually soothes extreme psychosis, which in my opinion is a condition far worse than torture. I didn’t quit coffee, but with the help of patches, a support group, a counsellor, a pharmacist and even a psychiatrist who specialized in addictions, I stopped smoking. It was the hardest and best thing I ever did, but it was almost too late. My breathing was seriously affected by 18 years of smoking and even now, 15 years later I am not recovered.

Coffee was difficult as well. It tasted good, it kept me alert, it seemed to stem the tide of urges to smoke. But perhaps worse than coffee I was addicted to overeating. This was not an easy thing to deal with in a group home where you pay one price for food and eat all you like. I ballooned from 170 pounds to 260. Even just looking at that number, 260 is staggering to me. I stayed in shape, I had a very physical job. Most of that weight was muscle, but a lot was fat as well. It took being diagnosed with diabetes to get me to cut down on my food. I have lost 40 pounds now but have a long way to go.

One of the funny things about all of these addictions is that there are 12-step meetings for all of them. I don’t want to comment on any except to say they help, but anyone who goes into one of these should be extremely mindful that there are many sick people in the groups. In my six-month dry spell, it was a so-called friend from AA who dragged me into a bar and bought me a drink, sending me spiralling on a binge that nearly killed me. Overeater’s Anonymous was a great meeting though often dominated by women who can be extremely sensitive to anyone (like myself) a little rough around the edges.

In conclusion, I guess I would most like to quote a film by Frank Capra, “The Snows of Killamanjaro” where a man spoke of preaching only “Moderation in everything, including moderation.” More to come on this topic.

Behind Locked Doors When There Was No Crime

This is a picture of me when I was in my early 20s. I think one of the coolest compliments I ever recieved was when I showed it to a female friend and she said, “Wow, you really had the whole Val Kilmer thing going for you back then.” I suppose I had the advantage of good looks for a time, but there was so much going wrong withmy life. I think at the time I still hadn’t been able yet to be completely honest with my Doctor and I had some misconceptions about trusting a psychiatrist to give me the proper meds I needed. When I look at this photo it makes me a bit sad because I see the torn hand me down jeans, the jacket my brother gave me which was the only decent clothing I owned. The orange sweater is one my Dad gave me from his store of clothes. Around this time I was going to adult high school and met a friend who I still talk to to this day, but I have no real clue as to why it lasted this long. When I look at this photo it doesn’t even seem like me.

So, for a bit of irony I will tell you all Dear Readers that as I write this blog entry I am currently a patient on a psychiatric ward. I have been here a month and tomorrow I am going to go home for the weekend and I don’t have a clear idea as to what is waiting for me. All I really do know is that there is a lifetime of books, comics, video games and two places to sleep (along with a ton of frozen meat that I truly hope is still okay) that will be a great deal better than staying here. When I come back from my pass, if all has gone well I will be discharged. One of the odd things about this stay is how sick I was when I came in and how quickly I came back from it all. I did use some of the advice I put on this blog, but I have been very lucky to have incredibly caring and intelligent staff members to help me through, as well as being in a hospital where no expense was spared to make sure the mental, physical and spiritual needs of the patients have been met.

When I came into the hospital, I was in a serious psychosis. I believed that two men from the building I live in had come to kill me and possibly kill my Dad. It was a completely unfounded idea, but I didn’t want to take any chances. I stood my ground until the police, called by my Dad, came to intervene and get me in an ambulance and on to the hospital. Once I saw the police had come I relaxed almost right away and even talked with one of the officers who had seen me speak at his recruit class. But sadly that was where, for a while at least, that I had my last dose of respect from people who were there to help me. I got to the hospital and I thought that everyone was avoiding me and that I stunk horribly so I asked for a gown and a garment bag and went into the bathroom and changed right while I was waiting into a ridiculous piece of hospital clothing that barely covered me. Then, my old enemies anxiety and paranoia surfaced, along with the psychosis (split from reality) that I was experiencing. For a while I really thought I was going to jail though I had done nothing to warrant it.

After incidents I honestly have very little recollection of, I was sent to the hospital where I am now, but not to the quiet and comfortable ward I am on now, I was sent to the locked ward. I can’t even begin to describe how chaotic places like this can be. I did what I could, drank coffee like mad and read until finally I was put over to this ward. There have been some blips, but not a single fight here on the more stable ward, though for a while I still had ideas in my head that someone had a gun and was going to kill me. As I look back in hindsight, there was actually very little animosity. I mostly keep to myself here and try to read and help others when I can. I have to admit to a healthy bit of fear of some of the others, but as I adjusted even those fears dissolved.

I am wondering what tomorrow will bring. How I will cope with the shock of being home. When I went home the other day on a day pass, it seemed that the building was going downhill. For a while I had thought my only solution was to forget about my apartment and head to BC. After a visit and a talk with my building manager, I really don’t think that will be needed. I just really can’t wait to sleep as long as I want, drink tea when I want and not have to report in to anyone.

Isolation and the Psychiatric Patient

DSCF3311Here is a nice picture of my dear old Dad, who is building me a bookshelf.  I could write volumes about what an incredible Dad he has been for me.

     Well, I felt a little bit inspired to talk a bit today about something that I certainly notice in myself.  It is a phenomena where I have social anxiety disorder (which is part of the reason why Prozac/Fluoxetine works well for me) especially after I have isolated myself for some time.  There are times of course when this can’t be avoided, like the other week when I was sick for a few days.  I seriously could tell I hadn’t had any decent human interaction in some time when I first started getting out of the house again.  Fortunately these days it isn’t as bad as it was when I was younger.  I have a very gripping memory of being 14 and being in the Psychiatric Ward of Edmonton’s General Hospital and every moment I could isolate myself I would.  I was afraid of the other patients, one time I started a conversation with an older man and he started drooling, something very common with psychiatric medications at the time and still to this day, which upset so greatly that I pleaded with my Dad to get me out of there, that I didn’t deserve to be there.  My Dad had a great deal of experience with mental illness at the time though, he had cared for my mom who had an illness for many years and he told me that these people were not to be feared or misunderstood.  Still, it was very difficult and I wouldn’t participate in groups or go to the hospital school, I would mostly sit in my room and read a History book that had nothing to do with any class I was taking (I recall it was a fascinating book though about the war in the desert during World War Two) and I would even hide when I heard the nurses coming around for their half hourly checks.

The end result of all that isolating was that when I went to Air Cadets on Thursday of one of those two weeks, I had to get up in front of everyone in my public speaking class and I was literally terrified.  I shook, I stammered, I messed up what I wanted to say, I thought about my acne which was quite bad at the time and I even had a great deal of trouble looking anyone in the eye.  Not long after this, after I returned to school and went about my normal activities, I actually ended up doing fairly well in that public speaking class and greatly enjoying it.  But the question remains:  how does one adjust from being in a hospital/institutional setting and get back to interacting with people in the outside world?

That is basically the question I wanted to answer in today’s blog.  I remember, though it has now been 15 plus years since I was hospitalized, that it is a big adjustment going into the hospital but it can be just as big an adjustment when you get out.  I met a man today who actually had been a Psychiatric Nurse on one of the wards I was on 25 years ago and he was telling me that often he would encourage people who were in there and in what they felt was a dire situation that everyone eventually does get discharged.  I personally have seen people on the inside who were very much gone, thinking only of their next cigarette and their next meal who are out walking around in public stabilized on medications and doing well.  It does take a great deal of support, but it is always possible.  With some of the more serious cases, and mine was very serious a number of times, there is need for frequent visits to nurses and doctors, possibly injections of medications to help with ease of taking medications and higher levels of compliance.  Not to mention something I don’t know much about in the US, but I do know here in Alberta is the situation where a person needs to receive some kind of financial benefits.  (In my case most of my benefits go directly to the group home I live in), but the thing to remember is that one day no matter how bad you think things have gotten, you will be back in a place you are comfortable with, with a degree of freedom you won’t have in the hospital and no one to answer to outside of your loved ones.

But how do you get to that point?  Inside the hospital it is a matter of accepting you need help and doing everything you can to find a Doctor who you can be honest with and one who will help adjust and change your medications to an optimal level.  Inside the hospital your medications will likely be higher than when you feel better and are discharged, but still it is possible to work with something you can handle.  It is important when you are in the hospital to work with the staff members to have as full a life as you can.  I can recall going bowling for free in Edmonton close to the hospital I was in, working at recycling parking meters part-time for a small amount of money and then there was events such as dances or therapy sessions which I would participate in, and if you are lucky, you will make a few friends.  At this point I think it is important to note that meeting a significant other or life partner or boyfriend or girlfriend is almost always a bad thing when you are in the hospital.  I can’t tell you why this is, but I can tell you that this is something I learned from experience and was also told by a number of staff members.  Perhaps it has to do with how people in a hospital setting can be very different people when they get home and they will be under a great deal of stress at this time.  I have had two such relationships and both were serious disasters.

So, when you get out probably one of the best things you can do is to start walking.  15 years ago when I got out of the mental institution after 5 months on the inside, my Dad was kind enough to come and pick me up and drive me to the park and we would walk different routes in any time of year through Edmonton’s beautiful river valley.  When I noticed my concentration and patience was returning, I started getting interested in reading Steinbeck and not long after I once again took up my old hobby of writing.  By sheer chance a friend handed me a stack of papers in a plastic bag one day and here was the manuscript that is now (available on this website to order) “Through The Withering Storm”.  Writing brought new meaning and purpose to my life, and from those small steps at first, I started turning back into a fully active, working and traveling and even writing person.  More on that tomorrow, I side-tracked a fair bit in this blog and I don’t want to put too much into just one post or I will run out of ideas and my readers will run out of patience.  As always, I am just an email away, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSCF5643This is a photo of my good friend Dr.Gary Garrison, who has just released an incredible book that takes a look inside Canada’s Federal prison system called “Human on the Inside”

DSC00283I met this happy little guy at the Edmonton Zoo

 

Blog for today:  Personal Psychiatric Directive

Good day dear readers!  It is early in the morning, but I thought I would get an early start on today’s blog.  I went to a class the other day and learned some very interesting things about mental health through the Schizophrenia Society.  One of the things I learned was that there are some really smart things you can do while you are well to avoid and speed up recovery from a relapse.  For those of you who may have Schizophrenia, you might be aware that sadly quite often your illness will get worse over time, meaning you will one day be sick again and your whole life could fall apart.  For me what happened the last time I was ill was that I simply scaled back the dose of one of my medications thinking it was making me too tired and over time I began to go into a manic and delusional state.  It is incredible to think of what happens to my brain when I am not being properly treated for my illness.  It had been such a long time then since I had been sick I didn’t think I would get sick again.  I slacked off in my medication taking, I reduced one of them and I wasn’t seeing a Psychiatrist on a regular basis who could evaluate me and most likely could have avoided the terrible relapse I had that ended me up in the hospital for 5 agonizing months.

What we talked about in the class I went to was something called a personal directive.  You actually have to sit down with a lawyer, which may cost some money or may be covered by legal aid or a local charity that helps those with mental illnesses.  Basically you sit down and map out what you want to happen if you ‘lose your mind’ for lack of a better term and end up in hospital.  You can write down what Doctor you want, what hospital you want to be sent to, whether or not you want to consent to shock treatments (ECT) and even what type of diet you want (vegetarian, vegan, etc.).  This to me seems like a great idea and I want to get one as soon as I can because I really had a bad experience with an egotistical ass of a Doctor last time who took me off all of my medications to spite me and treated me like garbage.  He even left orders that if I did anything at all out of the ordinary I was to be put into the solitary room and I was put in there so many times I don’t know if the emotional scars will ever heal from that.

Another really good idea I got from this group came from a participant, he had the idea of keeping a bag handy with things he wanted to take to the hospital or be able to get someone else to take to the hospital for him if he ended up there.  On my last stay, I literally had to wear the same shirt and pants for five months and had no books I enjoyed or a radio or anything.  I had to save up for a little walkman out of what I like to call ‘convict’s wages’.  I would do manual labor in the hospital and I would be paid $1.50 an hour for it while the people who supervised me were getting upwards of $25 an hour.  The injustices were many, but thankfully I have hopefully learned from that.

As a bit of a side note, I was watching an information program about spousal abuse and I saw something I would like to do if the situation came up.  This one person had a neighbor who he could hear each night was being abused by her spouse and one day he went to her and told her she could keep a ‘getaway’ bag at his house if she ever wanted to leave.  At first she declined and denied there was abuse going on, but later she brought over a bag and needed it not too long after.  This is the sort of thing that I think is really valuable because (1) it shows compassion and (2) it reminds me that mental illness is not the only problem people have in this world.

Last night I met up with an old friend from my high school days and went to visit another person who we grew up with who is living in a nursing home with Multiple Sclerosis.  The first friend is on medications now too, having been diagnosed with Lupus.  It really makes me feel kind of lucky, reminds me of how blessed I am in so many ways because though I do have physical problems, they are manageable and I am actually in really good health.  It also makes me feel better about my one problem, my bipolar disorder

Aside from that Dear Readers, I think I will leave things alone from here.  I am looking forward to my day because I am meeting my ex-girlfriend’s mom for lunch.  I met my ex-gf some 20 years ago and though we only went out for a short time a very long time ago, we still are close friends, even best friends and just about her whole family calls me a family member.  I talk to my ex on the phone nearly every day and I do things with her sister and mom and of course have her niece on Facebook.  I feel like a bit of a cad about it but years ago I actually was sort of dating her niece ( this was a full grown woman I should note, she was the child of my ex-gf’s much older sister).  I really liked her a lot, she is married now too though but we keep in touch.  Not long ago, though it was actually a joke, a Facebook friend posted that she was in love and wanted advice, and I think I came up with a pretty good gem.  First of all, without putting pressure on them, or going overboard, make them your best friend and then let the relationship grow from there if it wants to.  Anyhow, I should run.  As always, I am open for emails from any and all of you who like to read this, viking3082000@yahoo.com

DSC00221This is a statue in West Edmonton Mall honoring all the oil rig workers who made Alberta a wealthy and prosperous place to live