Sunday, May 31, 2009

Psychosis © Megan Snider

"And this is not my face
And this is not my life
And there is not a single thing here
I can recognize
This is all a dream
And none of you are real
I'll give anything I'll give anything..."
--Reznor, "Head Down" (click to read)

Let’s talk about psychosis today. A psychotic person is not a psychopath. You must realize this. Write it on the back of your hand for reference. Tattoo it on your back. Remember what I tell you.


A psychotic person is not a psychopath.

With this blog, I struggle between the use of first and third person pronouns. Should I say “I” or “she”? Sylvia Plath used “she” for “I” in The Bell Jar. She used “she” for “I” often. I hesitate between “she” and “I” simply because I don’t want to be Exhibit A in the Looney Tunes section of Ward B.

That’s how we treat mental illness, right? It’s funny. Straight jackets are funny. Padded rooms are funny. People that drool from Thorazine (Chlorpromazine) are funny, right? Paranoid Schizophrenics are funny, too, aren’t they?

It’s funny until it happens to you.

So, psychosis, let’s deal with it. Let’s look at it. If you’re scared, that’s ok; you should be. Psychosis is terrifying and can be the result of a mental disorder or can be a torture all by its lonesome self.

In the 1950s they used to stick needles behind the orbital sockets and skewer the brain like hamburger to get rid of it. The effect was permanent brain damage. Once again, thank you, mental health centers. They called it a Frontal Lobotomy. If it were the 1950s now, I would be walking around in white with half my brain shaved off. Simply because of the horrible fact that many psychiatrists cannot realize the total sum of differences between dissociation and psychosis.I actually read an article that suggested a new treatment for psychosis was to disrupt or destroy a portion of the frontal lobe to subdue psychosis. This is the rebirth of the Frontal Lobotomy. We put it in a new pair of boots and a new jacket, but it’s still the same sadism. Still the same, loving, biting, painful psychiatric care that all of us should be used to by now.

This will make you better– by the way, do you have insurance?

If you don’t have insurance, we can only destroy one section of your brain and not the whole lobe.

So what is psychosis? Simply put, it’s a break from reality. You have experienced psychosis and you probably don’t know it.

Did you ever believe something that wasn’t true?
That’s a delusion. Talk to folks with Bipolar Disorder or Schizophrenia about that.

Did you ever hear a noise when no one was there? A foot on the stairway or a knock at the door? Did you get up to answer the doorbell and there was all of nothing standing on the other side of that cherry or oak door?


Di d y our thou ghts eve r go like thi s an d you coul dn’t s top the m?

Did you ever have trouble or think you didn’t fit in?

Did you ever think someone might be able to see through you and tell what you were thinking?
Were you ever scared you were paper-thin and see through and translucent?

Hey, let’s give you a pat on the back and a push through the door.

You just experienced psychosis.

Virginia Slims would say: “You’ve come a long way, baby!”

It’s not really funny, is it?

Did you laugh when that happened to you? Then why do you laugh if it happens to me or her or him?

Psychosis may be present with Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Panic Disorder, Clinical Depression, unspecified mental disorders, sleep deprivation, epilepsy, extreme trauma, brain tumors, drug abuse, severe stress, brain damage, and drug withdrawal.
Oh, man– Oh, no– That means…It could happen to anyone…Jeez…Man….Oh my God….

Yeah, that’s right, you just got a bingo on your score-card.

Psychosis is a scary term and it’s a scary problem to have.

If I had a lobotomy for every time someone told me that…

© Megan Snider

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Antipsychotic Trinity Gospel © Megan Snider

I have some things I should probably mention about antipsychotics before I let my experience with Tardive Dyskensia slide. So, I'm going to cover them today.

The first thing you should know is that as far as antipsychotics are concerned, there are three "generations."

The First Generation-- Typical Antipsychotics, 1950
The first generation came with Haldol. Haldol was the first antipsychotic developed, is the oldest, and provides the kind of psychiatric care you might read about in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Haldol is also dirt cheap. Thanks to the Wal-Mart $5.00, prescription plan, you can buy a nice pill jar of Haldol, look in the mirror, and watch the muscles in your mouth spasm. Haldol is a strong drug and often administered in strong doses. Haldol is what they give Schizophrenics to shut them up when they can no longer provide care. They just shoot them full of Haldol injections monthly and let them jitter and spasm. Thank you, mental health centers.


Even with the drug, you will still twitch.

Antipsychotics are used both to treat Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorders. Generally speaking, these two illnesses are eerily alike. Aside from that you have Schizoaffective Disorder, Psychosis, and it continues on down the spectrum of disorders mixed with conception of reality and conception of mood and personality.

The Second Generation--Atypical Antipsychotics, 1950-1970
The second generation also began in the 1950s, but continued into the 1970s. These drugs are generally safer. I, myself, had taken Zyprexa for three years without an anti-spasm drug and had no effects. Zyprexa, at first, stopped my mind from racing and helped me get to sleep. After a while, it did nothing but make me gain weight.

The Third Generation-- Abilify and Bifeprunox, Currently being tested
The third generation of antipsychotics is still in testing, basically. Abilify has been trumpeted as the Messiah of antipsychotics, but its true effects remain to be seen. I assume the third generation is safer than the second and requires no anti-spasm medication.

Never forget, ANY antipsychotic can cause: Aranulocytosis, Tardive dyskinesia, Tardive akathisia, Tardive psychoses and Tardive dysphrenia.

That's really all I would like to mention in effect to that situation for now.

© Megan Snider

Friday, May 29, 2009

Depression Speaks © Megan Snider

"Dying Is an art, like everything else. I do it exceptionally well."
--Plath "Lady Lazarus" (click to read)

I think that Plath had her finger right on the waning pulse of depression. Depression is a cycle, mostly. It may not feel like one, but it is.

I'm going to do an experiment, since I have just been roused out of my ignorant days of happiness and hope by the punch in the jaw of the fist of reality. I've just had another handful of teeth knocked out by depression again.

Here's a quite tame expression of clinical depression for your observation.

On the surface, we have the steady throbbing emptiness of total despair that wastes away at the soul.

The threadbare linen, the white shroud that haphazardly clings to the being.

Then we have the being, the hard shell and the center that is in all actuality a whirlwind.

It does not take much to start depression back up again because it never really goes away.

A tooth pulled, a finger sliced, a black eye-- always affirmed with those everlasting aches.

The heart, bruised and tarnished with years of stains and regret and sweat-- false hope and false dreams-- finally learns to beat for no reason other than to write.

I write because I can. Everything can and will be taken away from me with time. Bluntly put, time destroys everything and somehow my touch causes empires to crumble-- not because of my power, but because of the shrug in my shoulder and the void in my eyes-- because I fail and am a failure.

I guess maybe the last thing I have is the alphabet. That is funny to say, but it is true. A word, some words, a lie, some lies-- it's all the same-- it all comes out the same way and reaches the same end-- with a gigantic accumulation of absolute nothing.

The hopes of youth, the hopes of passion, the hopes of victory-- the hope of something-- all disappear

--From my hands.

--Just give it time.

This is a tame example. It's been edited and watered down so no one gets too scared or disturbed.

Most people with Bipolar Disorder commit suicide during their manias because they know what is coming next-- the fall...and the crushed spirit and broken bones: Incapacitation.

If you understand metaphors, then you can see what I'm driving at here.

The desire to be pulled to the grave, as I related before when I quoted from "Tithonus".

Nothing is lower than this moment.

But it lasts forever.

I know why Plath put that tape on the door frame and put her head in the oven.

Do you?

© Megan Snider

Family Therapy © Megan Snider

"There is nothing wrong with me but myself."
--Franz Kafka

I think, in my opinion, Franz Kafka is the poster child for the relationship between the child with mental illness and the parent. Kafka had, it seems to me, anxiety disorders and I know for a fact that he had Clinical Depression.

When I read Kafka's diaries, sometimes it is like looking into a mirror. I mean that with no disrespect because on many occasions I have referred to Franz Kafka as my "dead boyfriend".

That's why he never calls.

Seriously, I suppose this should be done, because I've gone through similar struggles with my own parents. In one respect, I understand what Kafka says to his father and in his famous "Brief Der Vater" ("Letter to Father"), on certain days of the week, I feel ashamed that sometimes my parents may blame themselves for my condition.

Let me say this once-- aside from chemical imbalances, passed on traits, and shared attitudes-- my condition and my parents have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

Mental illness starts up in little ways-- maybe you don't notice at first or maybe you do-- when you hit 23-25, you're usually exhibiting full-blown symptoms. This is what I read and, from my point of view, it is certainly true. In my senior year of college (I had two senior years LOL) I began to really break down. Of course, various events and attitudes have helped to set me off, but that can't be helped. I have always had Panic Disorder, but when it set it again something else came with it.

As far as "dealing" with mental illness goes, NO ONE has the capacity to cure it. Parents, doctors, and even the mentally ill themselves can do similar things and gestures, but the best result is a suppression of illness-- not a remission. My own doctor gave me pills that gave me involuntary muscle spasms/rigidity/tardive dyskensia for three hours. What does that say?

I do resent, honestly, being told to be positive because I feel like the same treasures that other people find in their lives were not created for me to enjoy. I feel like I live in this fringe of society for various reasons and that my life is not entitled to joy and companionship or anything along those lines. I don't just "feel" that; I believe it.

Cycles in my life have convinced me that I am simply not going to have the things I want; that all I can hope for at best is to bury myself in pages and ink pens and web pages and pretend like being alone and being mentally ill doesn't effect me.

I think symptoms are beginning to pile up in my life. Within the last week and a half ago I completed 32 published articles. Yesterday I sat in front of the computer screen and cried. Today I felt the familiar feeling of not wanting wake up.

But that had nothing to do with my parents.

I do not blame them for my illness and I am proud of the legacy I come from. I resent the "positive attitude" talks and the "self-fulfilling prophecy" talks. I resent the fact that when I am upset, I must be having some sort of specific woman's problem or be having hormonal issues. I resent the fact that people with AIDs or cancer get to live "brave" and "noble" lives, while people with mental illnesses are just insane.

Franz Kafka said something to the effect that he felt like the point in the crack of a cup where the pressure is applied the hardest. I agree. Emily Dickinson never came out of her room. When she began to fall in love with a man whom she had been exchanging letters with, she quit writing. I have fallen in love with men and then said to myself, "It's time to stop now." And I've snapped the necks of plenty of my dreams. T.S. Eliot wrote in "The Wasteland" that he could connect nothing to nothing with his hands. I agree.

When I make comparisons between authors and my condition, sometimes people think I am claiming to be as great as they are. No, I'm not. What I'm saying is that it helps me to know that geniuses had mental illnesses, too. When they wrote, they brought their conditions-- purposely or not-- out into light and into the arena of speculation. If you can't see how I feel, then you could go read one of these authors and figure it out to a small, small degree.

Not only that, but these writers are revered. They didn't go around drooling, with red eyes, and monster claws. But, they did suffer in some way or another.

My doctor is not sharing my diagnosis with me. I specifically asked and he specifically said nothing. So, aside from Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and Clinical Depression with Psychotic Features, I am left to choose between two disorders to account for the rest of my diagnosis.

At the mention of those prior disorders, I have no doubt that some people reading now fear me. It's alright, I've been down that road before. I just hope that if you are one of those people, that in your hour or HOURS of need, society will also snicker and laugh softly at you, too.

But, my parents did not create these diagnostic criteria and they did not push me into them. It's like I'm in a locked closet door and they're banging on the other side. It's like we're looking at the same picture, but I am looking at the portrait upside down.

To all parents of children or "adult children" with mental illness: IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT.
To all the people who have mental illnesses: Find comfort in what you can.

Understand that you cannot understand your child and also understand that your child cannot understand you all the time. Understand? (Ha ha. Get it?-- "Understand..." Well, I'd like to see you do better...)

Anger comes from fear, sadness and regret from realization. Over time these usual feelings of doubt, pain, torture, and anger become real somehow. You begin to feel like your life will never change. You will go on loving the same people without them loving you, you will have the same conflicting desires to be seen and disappear, to yell and shut up, to cry and scream, to fantasize and to realize.

The reason your children don't believe you when you try to help is them is because they don't believe themselves. They no longer believe nor belong in their own dreams, aspirations, and fantasies. The realism of county mental hospitals, rounds of horrifying drugs PROMISED TO HELP, days of isolation of staying in bed, inabilities to find a mate, a purpose or comfort have all been bent down and formed with the weight of realization.

My mom said to me the other day in response to something, "I know what I am."

Well, I know what I am, too.

And I hate it.

That does not mean I hate you. I hate that as parents and children, we no longer understand each other.

It was once common for mental illness theories to center around mothers. That was the fifties. Those theories are now debunked and not accepted by the mainstream of psychiatry treatment practictioners.

For reference, they were called "Refrigerator Mother" theories. They were called that because they centered on a mother who was cold and did not nurture enough in the early stages of a child's development.

In reality, I have more trouble with my father than I do with my mother.

Actually, the term "Refrigerator Mother" simply makes me hungry. Refrigerators are a good thing for me-- think of all the food they have in them. That is a delicious theory.

Now I kind of wish I had a refrigerator for a mother.

But I don't.

No one does anymore , because no one did to begin with.

© Megan Snider

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Tardive Dyskinesia IV: Antipsychotic Interactions © Megan Snider

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.I learn by going where I have to go.
--Roethke "The Wakening"

ALL antipsychotics can cause Tardive Dyskinesia

--Even the new, "safer" ones.

The only antipsychotic shown that has a low risk of Dyskinesia is Clozapine.

Here is a list of common antipsychotics:

Amisulpiride (Solian)

Aripiprazole (Abilify) "New" and "safer"?


Olanzapine (Zyprexa)


Risperidone (Risperdal)

Zotepine (Zoleptil)

Chrlorpromazine (Largactil)

Flupenthixol (Depixol, Flupenthixol,Fluanxol)

Fluphenazine (Moditen)

Haloperidol (Serenace, Haldol) -- This is what got me.

Loxapine (Loxapac)

Pericyazine (Neulactil)

Perphenazine (Fentazine)

Pimozide (Orap)



Sulpiride (Sulpitil, Sulpor)

Thoridazine (Melleril)

Trifluoperazine (Stelazine)

Zuclopenthixol (Clopixol)

© Megan Snider

Tardive dyskinesia III: Symptoms © Megan Snider

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.I learn by going where I have to go.
--Roethke "The Wakening"

Every case of Tardive dyskinesia looks different.

The common symptoms of Tardive dyskinesia are as follows, but please note that there may be other unique symptoms not listed here. Also note that ALL of these symptoms are painful and uncontrollable.

When the E.R. doctor asked me to rate my pain on a scale of one to ten, I said, "Eight."
I will highlight in yellow, for the sake of my memory (in case I forget), what I experienced.

Common Symptoms:
Involuntary, repetitive movements
Grimacing or "smiling" (fake facial "expressions")
Tongue protrusion
Lip smacking
Lip puckering
Pursing of the lips
Rapid eye blinking
Rapid movements of the extremities/ convulsing or jerking
Impaired movements of the fingers

Rapid movements of the fingers

Unique, Unlisted Symptoms not listed that I experienced:
Sneering (fake facial "expressions")
Grinding of the teeth
Thumb paralysis or twitching/flexing/ holding thumbs "outward"
Claw-like posture of hands
Uncontrollable blinking (see rapid blinking above)
Neck stiffness and pain
Arching and spasms of back
Extension of arms
Eyes in a locked, upward position
Impairment in speech (see tongue protrusion above)
Locked position of muscles for long periods of seconds
Contractions of muscles
Movement of brow, eyes, and eyebrows (fake facial "expressions")

Pinching, claw posture of fingers

© Megan Snider

Tardive Dyskinesia III: Causes © Megan Snider

"This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go."
--Roethke "The Waking" (click to read)

This is the most important part of the blog for those on antipsychotics. Please, read this very carefully.

Tardive Dyskinesia is caused in two ways:



Tardive Dyskinesia can manifest itself at any time it chooses to do so.

One dose may trigger it or 2,000 may trigger it.

© Megan Snider

Even after you stop the antipsychotic it may remain permanently.

Even after you stop the antipsychotic it may recur periodically.

Tardive Dyskinesia II: What it Looks Like © Megan Snider

"This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go."
--Roethke "The Waking" (click to read)

First off, let's start with what it looks like.

Here are some videos exposing the effects of dystonia and dykinesia. Dystonia and dykinesia are related movement disorders. Dykinesia is usually in the face and is caused by either prolonged ingestion of antipsychotics over the years or in response to a high does of antipsychotics in one ingestion, but it can also affect the body in a way similar to Dystonia. (It happened to me.)

If these videos disturb you, then I have done my job well.

Tardive Dystonia-- In Body and Face (click to watch.) PERMANENT. ***Disturbing***
Dystonia-- In Body and Face (click to watch.) PERMANENT. ***Disturbing***
Dystonia--In Body and Face (click to watch.) PERMANENT. ***Disturbing***
Tardive Dyskinesia-- In Hands, Face, and Mouth (click to watch.) PERMANENT. ***Disturbing***

The muscle rigor, extensions, movements, and convulsions you see here are INVOLUNTARY.

With Dyskinesia, when you see someone bearing their teeth, grinding their teeth or moving their mouth it is involuntary and it is painful.

When I had Tardive Dyskinesia, I remember my mother once asking me if I was smiling in the E.R.

No, I wasn't.

© Megan Snider


Tardive Dyskinesia I: An Overveiw © Megan Snider

"This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.What falls away is always. And is near.I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow. I learn by going where I have to go."
--Roethke "The Waking" (click to read)

I'm sorry to write this blog because I've mentioned this before at least three times and I don't want to bore anyone. But, I have to write this before I start working on anything else today.

Since the blog has a maximum number of characters I am allowed to type in one post, I will write this in installments.

I will cover symptoms, causes, video links, drug reactions, and treatment issues for the condition of Tardive dyskinesia (click to read.)

You do not have to read this blog. If you or someone you loves takes ANY antipsychotic, you had better read this because it is extremely important. This CAN happen to you. It happened to me.

This is not for sympathy. This is a warning. Tardive dyskinesia CAN be PERMANENT.

Watch the videos I post and see if you want to watch yourself or someone you love go through this.

Please, take your treatment into your own hands. Research, read, understand and learn.

I don't want this to happen to anyone.

The videos made me cry-- not for myself-- but because I know what Tardive dyskinesia feels like and the only way I could deal with having it permanently would only be by brain death or morphine or suicide.

That's not an embellishment.

I will give you the facts you need to stay safe and help yourself.

I will tell you as much as I know.

© Megan Snider

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What Psychiatrists Need to Know: A Patient's Perspective © Megan Snider

"Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those, who do not write, compose, or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear, which is inherent in a human condition”
--Graham Greene

Initially this blog stemmed from an experience I had with my last session of "treatment".

I had a strong desire to document the absolute frustration I feel with the mental facilities--especially in Alabama.

I know if I were back home (Iowa), I would be receiving better care.

I know that Georgia also has much better school systems and mental health organizations and programs than compared to Alabama. When I began to post, I wanted to mention some things my therapist had said to me that I found rather upsetting.

Keeping in mind that this therapist and facility is the only place I have and can afford, I think I will keep remarks to myself. Instead, I am going to compose a small, easy-to-read list of rules that every therapist should somehow be made to submit to.

1.) Patients are not case studies-- They are people.

2.) Most patients can't afford the prescription plans you decree. Patients should not be treated with money and marketing in mind. Stop under-rating and over-rating drugs. If the generic version is just as good then offer it-- don't pick another medicine out of your hat when they can't pay for one.

3.) Warn your patient of side-effects of all drugs.

4.) Talk to your patient, not to yourself for the sake of hearing your own voice.

5.) Don't assume your patient is an idiot about his or her disorder. He or she LIVES with the disorder; you can only read about it. That must be nice.

6.) Stop neglecting patients by making them guineia pigs. Prescribe the proper counter-acting drugs with drugs that may cause side effects. I had
tardive dyskinesia (click for link) for three hours on Saturday. It hurts like Hell. It spreads, too. In my case it was in this progression: lips, mouth, thumbs, hands (claw posture), eyes, tongue/mouth, jaw, back, and upper torso. Take note of the fixated grimacing and grinding of teeth section in this link provided. Now imagine that for three hours.

7.) Don't make promises-- especially huge promises or downright lies

8.) Realize that you don't know what your patient experiences and you never will.

9.) Mental illness does not equate to loss of I.Q.

10.) Stop buying into the drug hypes and pushing the new, mostly scantly-documented new drugs like they will be a cure. Prescribe just what works-- not what's popular.

11.) You may or may not be smarter than your patient. Deal with it.

12.) Give patients regular appointment times and see them often-- even the poor ones.

13.) Realize your patients came to you for help, not a life-time membership in the "new scary/great drug participation plan". Give them help and follow up on them.

14.) Let your patient talk-- not you-- AND LISTEN.

15.) Make sure you don't have trouble with overlapping diagnostic criteria.

16.) Mental illness is not a small problem; it is pain every day you live with it.

17.) Don't say to your patients, "I hope you get better." Try to actually make them better.

Sign here: _______________________ Date:________

© Megan Snider

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Disorder and Outlook © Megan Snider

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow

Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow

For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

--Eliot's "The Hollow Men"

NOTE: I simply can't get this poem to format right in the editing. I encourage you to read the poem by clicking on the link at the end of this passage. You can't conceptualize what Eliot is communicating correctly with this current format and I apologize.

I think sometimes we see and accept surfaces too easily. Let me ask you something; what do you think the above excerpt from Eliot's "The Hollow Men" is about?

I have known this poem all my life.
When I was little, my mother quoted Eliot to me.
When I learned to read poetry, I read Eliot.
Like all poets, sometimes you think you know what they're saying and sometime later you doubt that assertion.

I was sitting in a class and we were going over this poem and suddenly I realized I knew what this part was about.

I knew what it meant for me.
I don't know what it means for you.
I don't know what it meant for T.S. Eliot.
But, I know what it means for me.

If someone read this who had no knowledge of poetry, it would seem like gibberish.

To a mentally ill person it would probably be an echo of an earlier thought-- disorganized and disturbed--bothered by something.

I believe in this passage the speaker is trying to affirm something, but he can't.

Do you see the stuttering in the lines and the break in thought?

"For thine is the...For thine is the...For thine is the kingdom...Life is very long..."

This may be modern poetry, but it also reads a lot like classical disordered thinking in psychiatric care. I'm not making assertions against Eliot, but I know he did suffer at least one breakdown in his lifetime.
A line in "The Wasteland" confirms this.
Eliot writes so ingeniously:

"'On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect

We can't be sure who the speaker is because if you examine this section, you will see it is in quotes. I cannot tell you who said this, but I can tell you about "Margate Sands". David Seabrook, wrote a book about Eliot called All the Devils are Here. In his book, Mr Seabrook, asserts that Eliot, who was then working at a branch of Lloyd’s in London, went to Margate to recover from a nervous breakdown. (Click on the text for a link to the article.)

A breakdown is just a generic euphemism for mental illness.
(Score one point for my team.)
Eliot's wife was also mentally ill, by the way.

I want to assert three things about this poem:
Disordered thought effects religion
Disordered thought may fuel genius
Disordered thought effects outlook

The thing that really takes the hammer to my heart is the stuttering we looked at earlier. The repetitive "For thine is the..."

This speaker wants to pray...But he can't.

Mental illness skewers and dissects man's relationship with god and humanity.

How do you go about fixing things that are so broken?

...A religion that is swallowed and brought back up and swallowed again...

The church and those eyes of the congregation that can't seem to connect the idea that I no longer believe the god I believe in can really help me.

It reminds me of Eliot again:

"And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?"
--Eliot "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

You may want to argue that I stretch that out of context and you would be right. I won't defend my use and misuse of poetry. But, it's the same thing as arguing over the lyrics of a song. Who is to tell me what that word or that sound or that phrase means to me?

I have been unable to pray for a long time now.

I want to, but I can't.

I'm to the point where I really don't think anything can help.

I'm at the "For thine is the...For thine is the.."

And I don't think I'm the only one saying this.

What is the last line of the poem?

Look at it:

"This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper."
--Eliot "The Hollow Men"

The acceptance of mental illness and the consequent loss of aspirations does not come with a huge forceful explosion. It was rather a moment where the shoulders slope and the mouth slackens and the words break apart into useless syllables. It's like slowly losing your vision over the years and coming to finally realize you can't define shapes any longer.

The first thing I was told in response to my mental illness was, I quote:

"With the onset of mental illness, many people begin to realize that their dreams are no longer possible."

And I whimpered.

© Megan Snider

Read Eliot's "The Hollow Men" here:
Read Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" here:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Sketches of Clinical Depression © Megan Snider

But thy strong
Hours indignant work'd their wills,
And beat me down and marr'd and wasted me,
And tho' they could not end me,
left me maim'd
And all I was in ashes.
Upon thy glimmering thresholds,
when the steam
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes
Of happy men that have the power to die,
And grassy barrows of the happier dead.
Release me, and restore me to the ground;
Thou seest all things, thou wilt see my grave:
Thou wilt renew thy beauty morn by morn;
I earth in earth forget these empty courts,
And thee returning on thy silver wheels.
--Tennyson, "Tithonus"

This poem, about an immortal, is immortal. One of Tennyson's absolute masterpieces. It also happens to be a glance behind the black curtain of Depression. It is not intended this way, I am sure. It is an epic recounting of an older tale.

For the sake of documentation, I will release yet another one of my man-created labels for mental illness. I have recurrent Major (Clinical) Depression with Psychotic features. Now, remember what Psychosis is-- it's not a psychopath-- it's a break from reality. This break is caused by panic attacks. But that will be a later entry.

Depression is hard to describe without being too cliche. On the surface it looks like a numbness, a loss of ability and function. This is partly true. Depression seeps so easily into the cracks in your psyche. Depression does have a voice, but it is flat and listless, tired of the eternal life that is too long just as Tithonus decrees.

I recently changed the personal message on my cell phone. It used to be in German because I love the German language. I switched it back to English. When I replayed it, I was shocked by my own voice-- no affect, no rising tone. It was beyond tired; it didn't even sound defeated; it didn't really sound like anything. It sounded like nothing. People with Depression are surrounded by nothing. In one of my poems I wrote the line, "Forever never finding(...)" I think that might be an apt comparison to Depression.

I wanted to put off the Depression blog because I knew it would be difficult to write.

Scientifically speaking, researches have discovered that during depressive episodes, the hippocampus actually shrinks in size from neuron damage. The claim is that with treatment, the normal size will return and everyone will live in a fairytale forever after and so on. Amen. Unfortunately, my Depression is drug-resistant. My brain has been fried by almost every anti-depressant made in the U.S.A.

So, where do you go from there? There exists these thoughts, these issues of wanting to be pulled to the grave or to be put down like a sick animal or to go to sleep and never wake up.

I actually hate the sound of birds chirping in the morning.

Depression is not a facade; it is not put on. If Depression were a mask I had been putting on for all these years, then I would have pulled it off decades ago.

Melancholy is appropriate for a writer, I suppose, to some degree.

Once you scrape past that surface of numbness, you expose the twisted nerves pulsating and on fire with memory, regret, guilt, and even anger.

Perhaps numbness is not quite potent enough of a word-- hopelessness would be much better.
The mentally ill believe the depressed thoughts they have-- all the black scenarios, the threats of harm, and the prospect of a future that stretches out before you as a vast, vast...wasteland.

You learn little tricks to shove your desires away, little techniques to suppress wishes and hopes that you believe can never come to fruition.

On of the most interesting line of a song lyric I heard was in the Goo Goo Doll's song "Name" where he sings, "Don't (sic) it make you sad to know that life is more than who you are?"

If good intentions and will were enough to tame the world wild world in my brain and fulfill my dreams, then I would certainly meet those obligations. Unfortunately, life is made up of strife, struggle, pettiness and put downs. After a while, you no longer want to participate in this stage of actors playing out their roles in life. So you hide in you bed, you stay at home, you neglect your personal appearance, and you basically rot.

Depression is not a matter of "having a stiff upper lip" or "marching on" or "pulling up the bootstraps" or (as the Germans would say), "Kopf Hoch".

There's no way you can fool yourself into being happy when your brain is turned inside out by chemical imbalances. Would you tell a man on his deathbed that hope would restore him to life again? Would you tell him that if he only tried harder, he would be able to survive for many more years? These kind of comments and thoughts trivialize Depression and mental illness. Tithonus, in the poem, begs that the gods take back their gift. Is life a gift? Can you wish it back? Depression certainly makes you want to do so.

Rumination is also a part of depression-- never letting go of those old scars, those old souveniers you always carry with you. Yet again, I must quote a Goo Goo Dolls song that says, "And even though the moment's passed me by, I still can't look away."

I think that is how a lot of depressed people feel. The constant things that hurt us keep on being regurgitated but never truly purged. In this respect, maybe the gift that Tithonus wanted to rid himself of was not immortality, but the memory of mortality.

© Megan Snider

Read Tennyson's epic Tithonus here:

General Discussion and the Haldol Dilemma © Megan Snider

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
and the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
--Eliot, "The Hollow Men"

I Tiresias, though blind, throbbing between two lives
-- Eliot, "The Wasteland"

I feel like I should issue some sort of retraction for my blog the other day. It is not uncharacteristic of me to share my feelings, it is just uncharacteristic of me to put them on display. Certainly having muscle spasms and tremors wasn't my proudest moment. I still remember lying on the E.R. with my back arched and my hands fixed into little claws, my neck bent back, and my eyes glued in an upward direction; I would not claim that as my most wonderful moment. Then the doctor walks in-- a male-- and says, "Well, Megan?"

I was evaluated by two male doctors, face and body twitching and spasming, with my hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. I'm not sure which hurt worse, imagining what I must have looked like or remembering how those sensations felt.

Muscle pain is quite unique. What I had was muscle rigor, contracting, and stiff muscles. And the pain was quite indescribable. When your muscles clench, it isn't like how they bunch together when your reach for something or move; it was full exertion and rigor of the muscle for countless seconds punctuated by small pauses. My teeth were literally grinding against each other and making noise. I'm still in pain today, but it's alright.

I wanted to share with you that my reaction actually began over the course of hours. When the symptoms became unbearable, I went to my room to hide and wait for it to be over. Things like that don't blow over by themselves, though. I am sure I could have driven myself to the hospital somehow, but I was lucky to have my family take me.

I am writing this as a warning. You see, I had been on Haldol prior to this incident. I was on Haldol previously without Artane for a few days. I always have facial twitches with Haldol, but I couldn't feel them, so I felt it was not too much of a bother. Nothing happened then. But something happened this time. My point is not to write for sympathy. Sympathy is wasteful sometimes and a plea for sympathy is rather pathetic. I am writing because I want someone, maybe just one person, to learn from what's going on in the world of psychiatric "care".

I hesitate to call it "care" because it would be deemed cruelty to administer a drug that causes convulsions and muscle rigidity upon a lab animal, but I suppose it is okay to do this to the mentally ill. We hesitate to carry out cosmetic testing on bunny rabbits, but we'll let kids lick anti-psychotics out of our hands.

Believe me, I'm not anti-drug. I am anti-horrible-side-effect. It's difficult because, as a person with diagnosed illnesses, all I want is to get better. That's all anyone wants. But it seems like no one is sure what to do yet. We know so frighteningly little about the brain. We give things names that we can't even explain.

What I want out of this tiny little room of words is just education and a place where people can communicate without being judged.

My second bout of Haldol was fine. I was actually going to write a blog about how much it seemed to be helping the day I went into convulsions. And, to some degree, Haldol is a good drug. But no one should have to go through that sort of physical pain because some doctors are ill-equipped to treat their patients or too quick to diagnose.

Here's what you should do: the minute you feel ticking to start or little spasms and they have a spark of a tingle to them or hurt a little, start on your way to the hospital. As minutes go by, it gets worse. The doctors will probably shoot you up with Benadryl and then give you a prescription for 25 to 50 milligrams of Benadryl and 5 millagrams of Artane (trihexyphenidyl) to take 3 times a day as needed. I'm asking you that if you take Haldol, keep BOTH Benadryl (regular over-the-counter) AND Artane in your medicine cabinet.

Tardive dyskinesia is defined as repetitive involuntary movement or spasms in response to high dosages of anti-psychotics. Artance states in its drug fact sheet that it only treats tremors and not Tardive dyskinesia. I am unsure where we draw the line between Tardive dyskinesia and muscle rigidity or spasming. I'm not a doctor, but by the time I die I might be.

Does anyone remember the push for Abilify as the new miracle antipsychotic? The new third generation push behind it entailed ad campaigns and colorful Internet banners. You can get Tardive dyskinesia from Abilify. So, I'm wondering where all this "new and safe" hype is coming from.

Oh, I must point out two things before I forget-- the reference from "The Hollow Men" is not about Tardive dyskinesia. (Ha ha.) Also, the quote from "The Wasteland" referring to Tiresias, throbbing between two lives, is an allusion to the fact that he is both male and female. At least, that's how I was taught the poem. The interesting metaphor there is that a lot of people live two lives. If you're mentally ill, you basically have to.

I remember sitting in an office at college with one of the doctors. This doctor had been a good friend of mine and I mentioned that the therapist had mentioned Schizophrenia in my diagnosis and I remember the college professor simply gasping, "Oh, my God!/ Jeez!" or something to that effect. And I remember being disappointed by that reaction. I suppose it was warranted, but the remark burns the existence of stigma in response to mental illness right into the middle of your forehead.

Now, I'm not sure if that is an official diagnosis. No one wants it to be. But, then again, no one wants to have cancer, either. But cancer is treated with kindness. If someone acts silly no one yells, "Hey! What's wrong with you? Do you have cancer?" at him. They yell, "Hey! What's wrong with you? Are you crazy?"

It's unlikely for me to approach writing in a casual way. I think writing is art and should be applied quite carefully. That is why I want to reject my last two blogs. But, on the other hand, they preserve raw emotion and that is just every bit as important as finding the right words.

Modern writing has changed so much with men like Eliot and Cummings that it really is hard to classify anymore. Maybe communication has gone that way, too. Maybe all of our voices are just tiny imitations of what we read and like and think about. And what of Mr. Beckett's contribution to the arts? That's a tough absurdist cookie, right there. A lot of mental illness has to do with trying to communicate what is unspeakable. In a way, the great writers communicated what hurt, sometimes why it hurt, and how to fix it without even making much literal sense at all.

© Megan Snider

Talk about a co-morbidity: That's genius and that's illness.
Read Eliot's "The Hollow Men" here:
(Mr. Kurtz-- he dead...LOLFTWBBQ)
Read Eliot's "The Wasteland" here:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Vitamin H © Megan Snider

My nerves feel like twisted molten metal wreckages melted in furnaces engulfed in the hottest degree burning fire...All because of Haldol. Halopreidol, Vitamin H, Haldol is an antypsychotic used for the control of schizophrenia, bipolar and basically anything else your doctor sees fit. Haldol is usually prescribed with Artane, a medicine that blocks tics, tremors and muscle spasms, since Haldol produces all three just fine on its own. I assume you know where this is going. I get up, pop some Haldol, and get to work on a few articles to rake in a little cash.

Now, as things usually go, I don't make it a habit to divulge too much personal information. It just somehow doesn't sit right with me. I tell my friends-- well, when I can get a hold of them-- everything. But I don't blog everything.

By 5:00 P.M. today I was sitting in an E.R. having facial and body tremors. It started in my neck hours earlier and I thought it was just strain from looking up at a computer screen all day. It had been hiding in my mouth, at the corners, and now was making me sneer, and I knew at that moment something wasn't right because I couldn't stop doing it. It was a compulsion-- a painful compulsion that I had to carry through over and over.

Before long I lost the fine motor control over my tongue and starting calling out for my mom to come help me. Which sounded a lot like someone saying, "Mamb, mamb..." and I thought of the mentally handicapped with their various tremors and twitches and wondered if the Hell I was in now felt anything akin to their lives. My voice sounded like a little kid trying to spit out consonants; it wasn't funny, though. I felt scared-- literally scared stiff-- and totally helpless.

On the car ride to the E.R. my tongue was flopping out and I again remembered all the Christmases spent with my mother's mentally disabled and handicapped brothers. Maybe that was an inappropriate thought, but it was there nonetheless.

I'll save you the trouble of scanning the text for my treatment. The thousand dollar cure-- what was it? IT WAS A SHOT FULL OF BENADRYL.

© Megan Snider

I'll write more in the morning. Maybe I'll feel better.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Update on Blog Posts

On a personal note, I must say that I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I signed up as a freelancer again and got another job that is keeping me pretty busy. I'm still thinking about the blog, but I have less and less time to work on it.
Hopefully, I'll figure out a way to get this up to speed again.
But, if I don't, understand that I haven't had any sort of income since September. I'm not making what people may say is "a lot", but it is "green" and quite "spendable".

Friday, May 15, 2009

Stigmas Applied to Mental Illness © Megan Snider

Nothing defines the quality of life in a community more clearly than people who regard themselves, or whom the consensus chooses to regard, as mentally unwell.
--Renata Adler

The stigma society places on mental illness sometimes really leaves me speechless. I have a lot of personal stories I could tell, but I'd rather leave readers with some concrete scenarios when considering this issue.

First of all, consider this entry on Helium I just ran into today. Aparently, this is in the debate section and it is entitled "Should Mentally Ill People Be Allowed to Vote? " The title threw me for quite a loop so I clicked the link. I saw that they were conducting a vote, so I cast my vote for "yes". Out of a total of 437 votes 237 people (including me) voted "yes", while 200 voted "no".

It amazed me that there was only a difference of 37 people in determining whether the mentally ill should vote or not. Certainly we would not have this same amount of intolerance if someone posted the debate question "Should Minorities Be Allowed to Vote?" or "Should Women Be Allowed to Vote?" I find the basic premise of all of these questions to be highly insulting, unacceptable, and insensitive. I will allow you to read the "yes" and "no" debates for yourself if you so desire. I am not going to attack writers, but rather ideas, prejudices, and stigmas.

Let's look at some common myths associated with mental illnesses:

1.) People with a severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia, are usually dangerous and violent.

2.) Someone is to blame for the development of mental illness such as parents, relatives, or the person with the illness.

3.) Mentally ill people lack the willpower and courage to make themselves better.

4.) Mental illness does not strike children.

5.) Mental illness can have religious roots such as demonic possession or over-indulgence in sin.

6.) The mentally ill should be locked up.

7.) The mentally ill will never lead normal lives, hold down important jobs, marry or have children.

8.) The mentally ill will never be "normal".

I will be debunking these myths one by one in later posts-- rest assured.

© Megan Snider

*Author's Note: For the record, Helium is a great site and I have nothing against it; I am merely using an illustration of my point.

"Should Mnetally Ill People be Allowed to Vote?" (Helium)

"Fight Stigma!" (NAMI)

"Facts and Myths About Mental Illness" (Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri)

"Myths About Mental Illness" (LDS Resources on Mental Illness)

"Common Misconceptions About Mental Illness" (Euclid Hospital)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Early Onset Signs of Mental Illness © Megan Snider

It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I meant, at all.”

--Eliot (The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock")

In the literary practice of giving credit where credit is due, I present you with a list of signs of the early onset of mental illness (in what I presume to be children) pulled from the Dr. Phil site. Some of the symptoms I deleted for redundancy issues.

The list seems fairly descriptive and pretty fair-handed. Mental illness is manifest in children-- beyond a doubt. My early experiences with Panic Disorder as a child led me to believe that my mind was somehow irrevocably damaged. I spent years trying to understand why I had the sensations I had. So, without a doubt, mental illness is present in children; yes! The particular problem I have with this list is that just because it is proactive, does not mean it is preventative.

Early onset signs of mental illness have their roots in childhood. But mental illness does not explode until someone reaches his or her mid-twenties. By the mid-twenties we see things such as dramatic breakdown in thought, concentration, lack of hygiene, inability to leave the house, disordered thought and speech, inability to concentrate and a host of other severe problems.

You may be able to read this list as a person with mental facilities that seem "normal". You can skim the list and say, "uh huh", "yes", and "of course" to many of these symptoms. You may even postulate as to why they occur. Let me take you through this list, one by one, and help you identify possibly why or how you or someone you love might feel this way.

Please keep in mind as I share some of my own personal experiences and beliefs, that mental illness is not set and defined as a uniform condition; it is experienced by a variety of different people in a variety of different ways. In fact, if anyone cares to share his or her own experiences, I would be more than pleased to hear them.

The key to this list is not to take these emotions, reactions, and responses and judge them-- but rather to try to understand them and make some sort of half-step towards acceptance, empathy and acknowledgement.

Remember that one of the key insights applied to mental illness on the sufferer's part is a "lack of insight". This means that the person truly is genuinly unaware and unable to control the thoughts and compulsions running wild in their head. They are increasingly introspective, but lack the ability to understand what they are observing in their own minds.

It becomes more and more difficult to seperate the self from the problem as mental illness stretches its hold over the brain. Just like losing eyesight, the person is totally unaware of how distorted their veiw of the world has become until their are given a new perspective. Try to keep the blame off the victim and instead pin it to the disease.

Withdrawing from friends and family/ Preferring to be alone
The onset of mental illness is much like a clock lodged in your head stuck on the count-down until your death. You begin to see life not as what its potential is, but what its reality is. What is the reality for someone who is afraid to leave his or her house? What is the reality for someone who hears voices or sees unusual things? What is the reality for someone who is beginning to see all of their hopes and dreams slowly coming to anything but fruition?

In a way, mental illness could be considered mental death because functions deemed “normal” cease. With this cessation, all that is left is torment. Physically speaking, the body dies when the brain stops regulating functions. In mental illness, this death is not literal, but symbolic. Perhaps it is better to deem that the spirit dies; the upright house of the soul withers and is twisted up and carried off by the wind.

Once you lose your hope, your ability to cope, your function, structure and access to a happy life, you lose life itself and begin to barricade yourself from friends and family. Besides, what are their chances of understanding anyhow?

Appearing depressed/ Lack of Motivation or Concentration
If someone appears to be depressed, it is generally a pretty good indication that they are. Retardation of speech, motor skills, reactions and expenditure of great effort in relation to little tasks are all simple indicators of the beginning of a black depression—not laziness as some suggest.

Increased anxiety or agitation/Moodiness Mistrustfulness or suspiciousness

Imagine that you do have a mental illness and you know it. Apparently, talking about Paranoid Schizophrenia in application to this headline is another matter entirely. So, let’s nix that for now. Just imagine you are mentally ill and you know it.

You’re the person that is stereotypically running around hacking off heads in CSI episodes; you’re the one shown on television babbling and blinking and ticking uncontrollably. You think knowing might help a little, but instead it makes everything else so much more difficult. What will people you respect think of you? What will people you love think about you? How will employers react?

Changes in personal hygiene
Your life is doomed and you know it. All the things that happen to you are not coincidence; this is your life and you’re damned to live it. Next comes the options: Shall I still do my hair up the way others like it or shall I let it go? Shall I change my shirt or maybe my pants? Let’s face it, you don’t want to get out of bed anymore—you don’t even want to wake up again. But you do. You wake up. You wake up to no point and no purpose except mind-numbing fear and accusations of failure—no matter if they are real or imagined—they sting just as much. You are unattractive, unproductive, and unimportant. You are a throw-away citizen.

Emotions that do not fit the situation
There are a variety of things going on here. In manias people generally feel a heightened mood that exceeds regular euphoria and feel that they can do most anything. In clinical depression people generally have a flat affect, not necessarily remorseful—though it could be— but rather numb. I also recall that a flat affect is a sign of schizophrenia. A variety of mood disorders could be lurking behind the scene of this diagnosis.

Vague speech / Speech sometimes doesn't make sense
I cannot explain to you how hard it is to organize thoughts. These thoughts may lend themselves to creativity, of course, but to get a handle on them is quite another matter. Imagine constant thought—constant thought to the point of helplessness. Looping memories, ideas, expressions in a never-ending circle are constantly scraping through the ceiling and basement of your mind. Now, imagine trying to pick out a few of these and say them aloud.

Unusual ideas or beliefs/Unusual experiences
Again, I cannot stress enough the “lack of insight” idea. The way a mentally ill person perceives the world when held in light beside that of how a “normal” person does makes for a quite startling comparison. The world is much more unknown, misunderstood, and frightening. People begin to fit in this category as well. As the acceptance of mental illness slowly meanders into one’s brain, one becomes naturally horrified that everyone can see one’s mental illness made manifest. Every action taken, every word spoken, every movement began opens the sufferer up to a new world of self doubt and loathing. How will people respond?

There is this tugging notion that perhaps people can see through the ill person and experiences can become strange. What is more difficult to explain than psychosis or depersonalization or derealization? Try writing in your diary about dissociation. It can’t be done effectively enough. The experiences someone with mental illness describes will sound unusual and hard to fathom. If delusions creep in and distort the thinking, then the belief system the ill person begins to develop will also begin to bend and fold at the edges.

© Megan Snider

Sources cited:
Read Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (