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 what 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 and I hope it provides the same assistance to you all.

 

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Catatonia

I sit on the ground, my breath rhythmic and steady. My breath is my sole attention, as I watch the world go by around me. My thoughts go by immeasurably slow. My breath is the only thing I can focus on. I am aware that there is a world outside myself, but it does not feel like a real world, I am withdrawn into myself like a hermit crab into its shell. My limbs are statues. All I am is breath.

The above describes my first catatonic stupor. A state of immobility or repetitive movements that can last anywhere from hours to years. I do not know how long it lasted, but based on the length of my other episodes I would suspect it was at least an hour. I would later be officially diagnosed with psychosis NOS, an inherently varying disease that includes many symptoms of schizophrenia. I have experienced auditory and visual hallucinations, depersonalization and derealization, and lack of focus to the point where I could not read a book, but the catatonia is still what frightens me the most.

What is Catatonia?

As mentioned previously, catatonia is an elongated period of immobility or repetitive movement. While catatonia is extremely debilitating, it is not, in itself, a disorder, rather, it is a symptom of an overlying disorder, often schizophrenia. People in a catatonic state may not react to external stimuli, or may suddenly become agitated or react to no stimuli at all. They may also maintain positions that they are put in, a trait called waxy flexibility, while others resist all efforts to be moved, called rigidity.

Catatonic Schizophrenia

Although removed as a diagnosis in the DSM V, the “Bible” of mental health, some people with schizophrenia acutely display catatonic symptoms. Formerly, these people were diagnosed not just with schizophrenia, but with catatonic schizophrenia. Note that not only do these people qualify for a diagnosis of schizophrenia (hallucinations, delusions, etc.), but they also have catatonic symptoms as described above.

Treatments

Catatonia can usually be treated successfully with anti-psychotics, and in some cases benzodiazepines. Most people respond well to these drugs and will quickly come out of a catatonic state within a few days. Some people may require ECT (Electro-Convulsive Therapy), and may even require regular rounds of ECT to stay out of catatonia. It is to be noted that ECT is not the horrible torture that movies often make it out to be. It is painless, and the movements seen during old time ECT is simply due to involuntary movements. During current ECT procedures, the patient is given a muscle relaxant to cease the movements.

Prognosis

Unfortunately, the prognosis for people with catatonia, in general, is not a good one. This is why I fear it most out of all my symptoms. According to one study, 14 of the 36 participants were in need of “continuous psychiatric care”, take from that what you will.

Conclusion

While I may have catatonic symptoms, which studies show makes my prognosis rather poor, and while my symptoms, as we speak, may be getting worse, I have not given up hope, and neither, I believe, should anyone else who has psychotic and/or catatonic symptoms. Life isn’t over till it’s over, and every life is worth living all the way through, even if the part of the path you’re on right now is in a scary forest with wolves all around you. One day after walking (or running) down that path for long enough you’ll come out to a field full of bright tulips, and the sun will shine.

 

 

Relapse

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Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things do not work out. Sometimes it’s something small, like not getting through that light coming up. Sometimes it’s something big, like breaking up with a long-time partner. Sometimes, despite taking medicine and going to therapy religiously, our mental health continues to deteriorate.

In the past week, symptoms have slowly begun creeping back into my life. The auditory hallucinations are worsening, and I’m now starting to see things as well. My cognitive symptoms are also returning, and I’m having small bouts of catatonia. So far, it is not as bad as my initial breakdown, but I fear it may become worse as time goes on.

My fear stems from two corners. In one corner, I am terrified of becoming sick again, and, more specifically, staying sick. In the other corner, I’m scared of going to the hospital. So great is my fear that I am planning to  suicide if it gets to that point.

I don’t want to write about this, and I’m sure most of you don’t want to read it, but this is my week to write an article and dammit I’m going to write one. I’d like to write about something nice, something to educate you or make you feel better about yourself, but I can’t do that this week. This is the only thing I can think about, and hence, it’s what this article must be about.

Tomorrow I see my therapist. After much deliberation, I have decided to tell her about my plans to kill myself. I’m not sure what’s going to happen after that, but I have a strong suspicion. That suspicion is the reason I am posting this on today rather than the usual Friday, before I go to my therapy appointment. If I don’t post my article week after next, you’ll know where I am.

I know I’m not the only one in this boat. I know there are more of you out there who are terrified of reaching out for help, or deathly afraid of the hospital like I am. I wish I could give you some uplifting pep talk, but I know from experience that there are no magical words that make everything better.

All I can tell you is that right now you are pulling a heavy wagon up a steep hill. The only way to get to the top is to get help pulling. Getting  down  that mountain won’t be a cakewalk either, with rocks and pitfalls along the way, but as long as someone’s next to you pulling, you have a chance.

I want to sincerely thank all of you who have, and continue, to read my articles. It really means a lot to me that you find it worth your time. I hope to write many more for you in the future. Thank you.