New Year Recollection

When it comes to the start of a new year, people tend to focus on new goals for the upcoming year. They’ll decide to start exercising more, quit smoking, spend less money to get out of debt… The list goes on. What people tend not to do is appreciate what they’ve accomplished through the previous year. While it is good to plan for the future, one should not forget about their accomplishments of the past. For the start of a new year, I prefer the method of embracing past accomplishments while planning for a productive future. Reflecting back on the previous year, one may often times see that they’ve accomplished much, even if at a quick glance they feel they haven’t.

For those suffering from a mental illness of some sort, this may be a daunting task, but I have found that it may ease suffering from looking back and reflecting. When I was at my worst, I would remember perceived past failures and dwell upon them, looking only at the negative parts of what happened. Being an anxious person, when I was in this particular state, I felt that what I was dwelling upon would directly impact my future. I felt that experiences and relationships that had failed were a waste of time and that they would continue to be a waste of time. This lead me to believe that future experiences or relationships would be a fruitless endeavor. What I didn’t focus on however was how much I enjoyed the time in each of those experiences and relationships, even though they have since passed.

We tend to focus largely on the negative aspects of experiences while glancing at the positives without fully appreciating what they’ve done for us as individuals – specifically how they made us feel and how they encouraged personal growth. These experiences and relationships, whether they’ve ended in a positive or negative manner, shape who we are as individuals. I feel that reflection upon these allow us to better ourselves as individuals. I encourage everyone to reflect upon their past accomplishments, past experiences, past relationships, whether they are negative or positive, and appreciate them for assisting you in becoming the individual you are today. Don’t focus upon being a “new” person this year – focus on building upon what you’ve accomplished.

In closing, I would like to share with you some advice I’d been given awhile back. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the source, but it went something like this: Forgive but remember the past, live and enjoy the present while planning for a fruitful future. This advice has helped me when I could only focus on the negative aspects of life. I hope it provides the same assistance to you all.

The Importance of Sharing

The story of the telling of my story.

pexels-photo

As a lazy college student, I don’t get out too much. I don’t go to extracurricular events,  join clubs, rarely go out with friends…to be honest it’s stretching the limits just going to class. Knowing this, I hope the reader will be impressed that I actually got out and did something. Something that I found very frightening, but that instantly made me feel better after I did it. I told my story.

I have told you all my story before, but, in real life, never have I told anyone outside my family, close friends, and mental health professionals what happened to me over a year ago now. What tortured me for nearly 6 months until I finally got into the right psychiatrist and on the right medication. Last week I got a message about a group on campus called Active Minds, which was having an event in which people who struggled with mental illness talked about their struggles. I knew I had to go.

I can’t quite explain why I needed to go so badly. Perhaps I wanted to see that I wasn’t alone, as I had never met someone that openly had a mental illness before. Perhaps I wanted to inspire other people on the edge to make that push to get help. I’m not sure exactly why I had to go, but next thing I know I was emailing the secretary of Active Minds asking if I could come speak.

The moment I emailed her I instantly became filled with fear. What if they didn’t believe me? What if they didn’t think my story was that big of a deal? What if they laughed at me? What if they thought I was crazy? Still, I knew I at least had to try, besides, I never had cared what people thought of me.

The terror built right up until I walked into the door to the meeting. After meeting the people I was going to be speaking to my fear vanished. I knew instantly that these were good, kind people who would never judge me or think ill of me for telling my story. I knew I had made the right decision.

After a brief icebreaker, we all began telling our stories. It was truly humbling hearing  everyone’s struggles, and as soon as I heard them I knew I was not alone. No one had quite the issues I had, but some symptoms were definitely familiar to me.  Most importantly, I felt safe and supported.

Finally, the turn came for me to speak. I told them everything. About staying in my room for three days straight, about the voices, about wanting to kill myself, about almost getting hospitalized. I told them about the feelings of depersonalization I experienced, and my intense inability to focus that crippled my mind, and how I was originally misdiagnosed, causing me to suffer for even longer. I also told them about the good things, about my great therapist and psychiatrist, about how the voices and other symptoms are gone now, and how I came out of the entire ordeal stronger than ever.

It was a relief to get my story out there, and more of a relief to know I was not alone. I think it’s important for everyone, whether it be struggles with mental illness or just with everyday life, know that they are not alone. We all struggle, and with 7 billion people on this earth, you know someone else is struggling with the exact same thing. If you are struggling, please reach out for help, and know you are not alone. If you have overcome your struggles, please reach out to others who may be struggling with the exact same thing. Let them know they are not alone, let them know you are there for them.

 

What Makes Me, Me?

This week on Exploring Mindfulness, we are privileged to share this guest post titled ” What Makes Me, Me?” by Max.

Max is a consultant for Point Above, a mindfulness and leadership consultant agency that aims at helping people and businesses with development into a more focused and productive entity. Through various courses and seminars, any person or company can be a more mindful leader. For more information, please check out www.pointabove.com!


 

What Makes Me, Me?

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” – Dr. Seuss

Is it my nature, or is it my nurture?

Is it when I am the happiest, or is it when I am most sad? When and where does true learning take place? What makes me, me?

From my experience, being in close relationships with different people helps teach you about yourself. Spending a lot of time with someone can help you figure out for yourself what you are alright, great, and amazing at. They may even flat out tell you how and what they accept of you. I am talking about both sexual and platonic relationships. Friends, families, lovers, all of them can help you on your quest to be the best you.

Before I get into the meat of what makes you you, I must say this. I have no answers.

There is no quick fix to figuring out who you are. It is a lifelong journey; just try not to judge yourself along the way, because if you want, you can grow.

Who you are, is how you change, and more importantly, why you change. If you want to change for someone else, or to please other people, your “why” is not aligned properly with what you actually want in the end. You must want to change, for the sake of growing more knowledgeable about yourself. As Dr. Seuss said, it is not about what it is, it is about what it can become. What it can become is the part I am expanding on.

So how do we know what we can become?

Through knowing our strengths? Our weaknesses? Our fears? It is all of these, but the one that stands out most in my eyes is our vulnerabilities. How we change, is opening up our vulnerabilities to people, and hopefully, if they accept them, growing with them.

What makes you, you, is not only your vulnerabilities, but how you communicate them. Being open enough to say, “I am scared,” “I need help with something,” or even saying, “I’m sorry” is a way of saying that you have vulnerabilities and that you are open to share and change. This also means that you have trust in that person. How you deal with those vulnerabilities when they involve interacting with other people involves a lot of trust.

One’s level of vulnerability and transparency are key elements in who a person is.

If you are truthful with yourself about your vulnerabilities, and transparent to other people about them, people will find trust in you. This trust, will allow them to open up their vulnerabilities to you. When someone opens up their vulnerabilities to you, they are asking for help in return. Help to overcome what is holding them back from being fully open with themselves and with others.

My vulnerability, or at least my willingness to open up my vulnerability to people can backfire. Sometimes, I open it up to people who are actually unable to help me grow, unappreciative of the situation, or unreciprocated in being open. These times can be hurtful; for we lose trust in people we once thought were there for us. At the same time, it proves who is actually there for us, the ones that care and are willing to spend time helping you understand yourself more.

One cannot be too phased by rejection of acceptance. You must accept this and move forward with life. Although these are methods of dealing with others who don’t accept, there are no answers here that can be applied universally. Figuring oneself out is a natural process of humanity.

We must learn from our fears and vulnerabilities, and allow other people in, for the sake of growing.


 

 

Exploring and understanding radical ideologies

While we are going about our journey through life, we as individuals of society have to interact with other individuals on a daily basis. Considering that we live in a world consisting of billions of people, each with their own unique set of ideologies and virtues, interacting with others can at times be quite trying, or painful. We have individuals who view the world with such strict adherence to their ideologies that they no longer see what is objectively true. Without awareness of how these radical ideologies are formed, an individual may be at higher risk to adopt a radical ideology, which raises the question: how are radical ideologies formed?

In order to understand how radical ideologies are formed, we must first understand what an ideology is and how they are formed. An ideology, according to Wikipedia, is “the imaginary relation to the real conditions of existence”, which is a system of belief reinforced by external stimuli. How an ideology is formed largely depends on which external stimuli are at play. If you have an individual who is constantly being bullied by someone (the external stimulus) for being fat, that particular idea is being reinforced. In instances like this, continual reinforcement by that particular external stimulus may lead the individual to believe that they are fat, even though that may or may not be true. All ideologies are formed in a similar, reinforced manner. An individual performing well at school may have their parents (another external stimulus) reinforce the idea that they are doing well in school. The continual reinforcement of this particular stimulus will lead to the individual doing well academically. Ideologies like these may or may not impact an individual’s life, depending on the external stimulus’ level of reinforcement in relation to the individual’s awareness and knowledge of how external stimuli may emotionally manipulate them.

Radical ideologies are formed the same way as all ideologies are, except they are reinforced to the point where an individual believes it in place of an objective truth. Those who adapt these ideologies are able to manipulate people emotionally into believing the ideology. Whether or not they are aware of what they are doing, or how they do it are different questions, but a great example in the past would be the Nazis in World War II, with Hitler manipulating Germany into following his radical cause. Radical ideologies like these stem from oppressive external stimuli. When there are many individuals being oppressed and oppression is continually reinforced, radical ideologies start to form and spread among those being oppressed.

With technological progression and the internet allowing everyone to have a platform to communicate their thoughts and ideas, more radical ideologies are being reinforced and spread by those who are consumed by them, such as cults, politicians or radical religious/social sects. Knowing why an individual has a certain ideology is crucial to understanding and interacting with them. It allows one to interact with any individual in a civil manner while protecting their ideology from unwanted contamination, but at the same time allows one to be exposed to information from these radical idealists and objectively analyze and learn from the experience.

Guest Post: Understanding Schizophrenia

This week I would like to introduce a guest blogger, The Beast. The Beast is a college student majoring in Biology, who also happens to suffer from schizophrenia, making everyday tasks that are autonomous to us, such as showering, eating, talking, etc. potentially quite difficult to nearly impossible. Portrayal of schizophrenia is often quite extreme in the media, showing either criminals who are mentally ill, or homeless individuals suffering from mental illness. In addition to, and perhaps because of this portrayal, there are many misconceptions about the illness, which hinders social awareness. This article by The Beast gives great insight into further understanding schizophrenia, as well as potentially dispel misconceptions individuals may have associated with the mental illness.


Understanding Schizophrenia

by The Beast at Mouth of the Beast

My sophomore year in college was a difficult one. I went from having excellent grades to failing  all but one class, I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t study, at night voices rung inside my head, and at  my worst, I became immobile, frozen for over half an hour. After a few weeks of this, I got help, and was eventually diagnosed with prodromal schizophrenia. The early, less severe, stage of the disease. Statistically, I have about a fifty fifty chance of developing the full disorder…

What is Schizophrenia?

According to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, schizophrenia is a thought disorder that effects about one in a hundred people. That may not sound like a lot, but think about sitting down in a large lecture hall or busy theater, chances are one or more people in those rooms have schizophrenia. One out of every hundred adds up to millions of sufferers in the US alone.  But what exactly IS schizophrenia? Well, there’s no easy answer, because the disease effects everyone so differently. Most psychiatrists break the symptoms of schizophrenia into negative, positive, and cognitive symptoms. People who have the disease may have few to all of these symptoms.

Positive Symptoms

Positive symptoms are symptoms that are added when the disease develops. Positive does not mean good, it simply means something additional is happening to the person. They may include the following…

Delusions, adamant belief in things that are untrue or not real. For example, a person may believe they are the reincarnation of Jesus, or that the FBI is stealing their thoughts. They will believe these things despite evidence against it.

“Word Salad” is another word for disorganized speech. Sometimes people with schizophrenia may be unable to coherently form sentences and thoughts that make sense to other people. This is often called “word salad” because it presents as a bundled hodgepodge of words.

Hallucinations, hearing, seeing, feeling, or even tasting things that are not real, such as the voices and noises I hear at night. Often, and unfortunately, the voices are negative in nature. They may also command the sufferer, for example, to kill or hurt themselves. For this and other reasons suicide and self harm rates in schizophrenia are extremely elevated, with about forty percent attempting suicide at some point.

Catatonia, this is what I was experiencing when I was “frozen”, it is the inability to react to the outside environment. It can present as complete lack of motion or repetitive movements with no reaction to the outside world. It can go on for hours, day, or longer…

Negative Symptoms

Many schizophrenia sufferers also suffer from negative symptoms. Negative symptoms are when a person loses a capacity that they had before the onset of the disease. They include…

Flatness, inability or lack of propensity to display emotion, they may also speak in a flat, monotone voice.

Lack of Enjoyment, people with the disease may find themselves unable to enjoy life.

Lack of Motivation, inability to complete or start objectives. This makes school, work, and life in general difficult for many people with the illness.

Alogia, or lack of speech, is when a person speaks less, speaks less fluently, and/or takes longer to speak.

Cognitive Symptoms

Schizophrenia often affects the way people think in a negative way, these are cognitive symptoms. Schizophrenia is a disease that slowly eats away at the grey matter of the brain. Because of this, it should be no surprise that cognitive symptoms occur.

Disorganized Thinking, inability to think in a logical manner.

Difficulty Understanding, this was my biggest problem before I got treatment. I could literally not read a word on a page due to not understanding the letters. It is truly a horrendous feeling.

Trouble Concentrating

Trouble with Memory

Lack of Awareness, many people with schizophrenia are unable to understand that they have the disorder. Oftentimes this makes treatment difficult.

Types of Schizophrenia

Although removed from the DSM V, the “Bible” of psychiatry, I will include the old subtypes of schizophrenia here, so that you may see just how different the disease can be from person to person.

Paranoid Schizophrenia, this subtype mostly presents with positive symptoms, including paranoid delusions that someone, or something, is out to get them. Although this may sound bad, those with this subtype actually have a comparably high recovery rate. This is also the most common form of schizophrenia.

Disorganized Schizophrenia presents mostly with negative symptoms, and is also grossly disorganized in everyday life. This makes mundane tasks such as showering and remembering to eat difficult. Many homeless people have disorganized schizophrenia.

Catatonic Schizophrenia, is a diagnosis given when catatonia is present in the person. Relative to the other forms of the disease, the recovery rate is fairly low for catatonic schizophrenia.

Treatment

In the modern day, schizophrenia is treatable, but not curable. The first anti-psychotics, called typical anti-psychotics, were laden with problems and horrible side effects which made them most unpleasant to take. Modern medications are called atypical anti-psychotics, and are often more tolerable than their predecessors. Although these medications manage symptoms, they will never cure the illness.

Many people stop taking their medication, whether it be due inability to pay for it, lack of awareness of their illness, or severe side effects, this puts them at a higher risk of relapse. Anti-psychotics also do not fully protect a person from relapsing into a psychotic episode (a period where symptoms are at their worst), and medications may not work for everyone.

A lot of choosing the right medication comes down to trial and error, and that is something that must be done with the help of an experienced psychiatrist. Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT) in which the person learns to manage their symptoms, is also very helpful in schizophrenia.


In addition to blogging about mental health and mental illness, The Beast also blogs about biology and photography! Check out his blog at http://www.mouthofthebeast.com/