Archive for the 'Mental Illness' Category

Medication Journal / Calendar

Not too long ago I was recommended to start keeping track of my medication and mood changes in a journal. I think this is such a good idea, that I wanted to share it with you.

With the journal you can keep track of what medication changes do to your mood, etc.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, all you need is one of those ruled exercise books, or alternatively a dedicated “journal” calendar.

Medication journal

My entries are something like this:
September 2014

1 “Medication X” down to zero
2 Poor sleep
3 Poor sleep 🙁
4 “Medication X” back to 2.5 mg
7 Saw my doctor, “Medication X” down to zero, “Medication Y” up to 7.5 mg
10 Akathisia way worse
15 “Medication X” back to 2.5 mg, “Medication Y” back to 5 mg
16 Feeling stuck in medication choice. Still have insomnia.
21 Low in mood. 🙁
30 Chat with friend. Feel a bit better.
Etc

You can record these events both on a calendar (how I started), or in a more private journal (what I have now).

I invite you to try it out, especially when your medication changes a fair bit.

October 04 2014 | Mental Illness | Comments Off on Medication Journal / Calendar

Anxiety and Meditation

With anxiety there’s the very real chance that your thoughts will take you on a not so pleasant experience. Thoughts can be followed by stories, e.g. series of thoughts + emotions + pictures from memory, and before you know it you’re reliving your worse nightmare again and again making the anxiety attack stronger. For example, after a bad experience on a bus, you might say “I better not get on the bus any more, and just to be safe I might as well avoid cars as well”. This process generally comes with physical effects in the body such as tension, stress, and more anxiety as a result, etc. It’s a vicious circle.

If we can somehow prevent the upcoming anxiety, or perhaps even start to dissolve it, it’s well worth exploring different options.

I always shrugged my shoulders when people told me about meditation, but I thought I’d give it a go, and have made much progress since. I’m not only more relaxed (because of the relaxed breathing), but I’m also more able to snap out of an upcoming anxiety attack, or ride it out. It does require a little bit of practice and time though.

Here’s the low down of how I do my meditation.

  • I find a position where I’m comfortable, and can close my eyes. This can be on a chair, couch, or on your bed. As long as you’re comfortable. I just lie down on my bed flat on my back.
  • All you need to do is breathe which should come natural. 😉
  • Just relax for a bit. Try and relax your breathing. Take a couple of deep breaths.
  • Now focus your attention on the breathing. Try and stay with the breath for as long as possible. It doesn’t really matter how you breathe at this point, because that’s not the goal of this meditation. It’s all about the focus on the breathing.
  • At some point you’ll probably find that your mind has wandered off, and is thinking of something else. That’s okay, that’s normal. The point is that you’re now aware that your mind has wandered off. That’s a major step.
  • Now bring your focus back to the breath, and repeat. When you catch your brain wandering again, bring your focus back to the breathing. That’s all you need to do.

The objective is to become aware of your (anxiety) thoughts, and being able to send your focus in a different direction. This is a crucial stepping stone, because you now you have some time to respond to the anxiety rather than react to it.

For example, when you experience anxiety, taking a deep breath is a good start as it is the first conscious signal coming from your brain to your body that it’s “okay”. The deep breath will trigger other processes in your body that will help you relax, and give you some time to think.

I was told to meditate 2 times 20 minutes per day, but it’s more like 2 times 10 minutes per day for me at the moment. It doesn’t matter. Everything you can fit into your schedule will help.

Anxiety checklist
Once you’ve become aware of your pending anxiety attack, it’s important to stay present in the moment. Try not to spend time in the past or future, e.g. “last time this didn’t go to well”, or “what if this happens, what if that happens?”. Live in the present moment.

Having an anxiety checklist (a list of things that will help you calm down) is a great tool to have. When you become aware of an impending anxiety attack, make sure to grab your anxiety checklist. Write the checklist down, because when you need it you probably won’t remember what’s on it. It doesn’t need to be a checklist by the way, it could also be a toy, or something that grounds you and calms you down. An anchor point.

Here’s my checklist:

  • BREATHE
  • Anxiety is a feeling, and won’t kill me
  • Stop! I can do this
  • I want to do this
  • I will get through this
  • Mindfulness
  • Plan ahead
  • Stop reacting

I was encouraged to write one, after reading this book.

I’d like to invite you to write your own.

Instead of reacting, you will now be responding consciously, because you’ve become aware of what’s going on. It’s like changing the rail road track so that the train will go in a different direction.

Anxiety won’t kill you
The key to anxiety, and this is going to sound stupid, is that it can’t kill you. It’s just extremely unpleasant. Fear might be there, but it’s important not to fight it (which will only make it stronger). Don’t run away, but gently face your fear. Let it do its’ worse, because it can’t kill you, and it will stop at some point. Yes, it will be uncomfortable at first, but progress can certainly be made. Just keep breathing, stay aware, and stick to your checklist.

Medication
Medication can play a big role with anxiety as well, e.g. some general medication does a good job, others not so much. Please feel free to discuss this with your doctor.

There is also medication that can help for the short-term, or as a “one off”, but they can be addictive and the body will get used to it, so they have limited use. I currently use a small dose of Lorezepam (.75 mg) to help with the Akithesia, and I am allowed to have a little more for big events that I know are coming.

Conclusion
There is of course quite a lot to anxiety, but I strongly feel that this meditation can help. It helped me, so why not give it a go. You’re going to be breathing and lying down at some point any way. 😉

This meditation will also help you relax in general, and it will also give you an idea of what is going on inside your head, e.g. the things your mind wanders off too.

Wishing you all the best.

October 03 2014 | Mental Illness | Comments Off on Anxiety and Meditation

The Voice of Reason

In September 2013 I once again saw myself hospitalized for a second psychotic episode.

This was a major step back.

Cause
The Clozapine I was on was always quite sedating for me. For example, 30-40 minutes after taking it, I was asleep, and the sedating effects were with me during the day as well.

I desperately wanted to change that, so I decided to get a second opinion. During a good conversation I was recommended to try Quetiapine as a replacement.

During the switch over, it became apparent that the Quetiapine was also sedating, and that it wasn’t as strong as Clozapine when it came to being an anti-psychotic drug. But this is now hindsight.

When the level of anti-psychotic drugs in my system were low, I again experienced delusions that led me to write a letter, which led me to hospital, and ultimately to ICU (Intensive Care Unit).

I experienced delusions, paranoia, and when coming home lots and lots of depression. I was also on the wrong medication, because I wouldn’t take anything else.

The recovery process is still ongoing, so I’ll try and keep everybody up to date as I learn new things.

First things learned: be very careful with changing your medication.

The letter that speaks of the end
During my first psychotic episode I believed that God was directly interacting with me. A very powerful and emotional experience. This time was no different from my first psychotic episode, except the context was more focused on the End of Days (book of Revelation).

I was once again God’s Servant (the highest honor in God’s Kingdom), and here to open people’s eyes. This time however I strongly suspected I was one of the 144,000 servants in the book of Revelation that were directly related to the end times. I had already seen more and more signs of this, so it didn’t really surprise me. Completely delusional at that point.

God and I (as if) wrote a letter together called “A letter of truth” which explains “everything” and why there must be an end of days to begin with. You can read it here.

I send it to three people figuring it would go viral.

I was completely stuffed from writing the letter, and my ex-wife was the first to pick up that something was wrong. She called the crisis center, who said they couldn’t do anything, and recommended her to call the police, who showed up not too much later. Deja vu.

I was taken to hospital. I was then released, but eventually made my way to the Taharoto unit again.

Going AWOL
AWOL stands for “absent oneself without explanation”. It’s a term used in the hospital as well.

And that’s what happened. My delusion got stronger, and there simply wasn’t enough anti-psychotic drugs in my body, or my mind to be precise.

Things got worse, and I soon found myself on the ICU department. Soon after I arrived at the ICU I stopped taking drugs, because I believed I didn’t need them anymore. That got me on Olanzapine, the only drug that can be administered with a jab. Sigh. What a mess…

Olanzapine works, but it’s slower than say Clozapine.

Delusions
Once the voice of reason disappears you get absorbed by the delusion (a strong belief you’re someone special, with optionally something important to do).

In my case the delusion had a lot to do with the end of days, preparing people, warning them, etc. Unfortunately in my case that also brings in things like satan, fallen angels, etc. Try taking your doctor serious if they just dropped the term “the devil’s advocate” in a conversation. In a delusion, that gets taken almost literally.

For some reason, I also saw/heard/smelt things around people that were clearly not there, e.g. I saw a glow around a person, I heard low frequency HAARP noises coming from the building (another patient told me it was HAARP, a secret military project that causes earthquakes), and I smelt sulfur around a person.

I was very confused when speaking to people from the outside world, because they couldn’t understand what I was trying to say. Very frustrating.

Paranoia
Sometimes, my delusion led to tremendous fear. For example, at one point I saw my fellow patients as fallen angels that were out to get me. I ended up staying in my room a lot, or stayed close to the nurses. I was so afraid.

Some patients played a bigger role, as they interacted with me, and led me astray. Once I believed that two of them were God, or God in person. I believed that Taharoto was the normal world, but that the ICU was heaven, where things worked differently.

It was a confusing time for me, and it took me 5 weeks to get off the ICU.

Almost time to go home
Once the medication had sunk in enough, my voice of reason was returning, and I soon felt I didn’t belong in the hospital anymore. My mood had also sunk tremendously when I realized what had happened.

I spend two weeks there, but I think it took always 2 months from beginning to end.

Work
My work had been great. They had actually reserved my job for me, so that it was still there when got out of hospital.

Depression
It was very hard for me to cope with what had happened, and all the things I had said and believed.

As my doctor put it, my body had been put through the wringer, and I should just take it slow.

I’m being put on a new medication called Aripiprazole which will help with the depression.

Conclusion
Apparently people go to several of these psychotic episodes, and a large number are due to something going wrong with the medication.

My thoughts go out to all the people that have experienced this.

Thanks to all the people that have reached out for me. I couldn’t have come this far without you. Thank you.

January 11 2014 | Mental Illness | Comments Off on The Voice of Reason

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