Staying the Course

Hi everyone. I continue to do really well, and I also have added a new med that helps manage weight gain with antipsychotics, and so I’ve stopped gaining weight, which is great. I’ve even lost some weight and want to exercise again. Since I’m feeling so good, even I have started thinking about how I should perhaps change something to make it even better. Luckily the ring I wrote about, the one that reminds me to stay the course no matter how much it feels like I don’t need this much medicine, is a helpful reminder to stay on the medicine at a high dose.

The hardest thing is that being on this high of a dose of medicine makes my life take a more shallow course, because I’m not constantly plumbing the depths of my experience like I am when I’m on less. How do I combat that?

I write.

I especially recommend journaling a lot before you go up on your medicine if possible – i.e. if you’re not in crisis, needing a high dose right away – so that you have breadcrumbs back to your deeper life source from when it wasn’t medicated away. I can still access this mentally when I read my past writing, especially my life-coaching materials, which are designed to align your life trajectory.

Values and Goals Based Living

I have been reading books on mental health written for professional practitioners. NOT for psychiatrists, but for therapists. They are therapeutic. Ones for psychiatrists are very very depressing and I don’t recommend it. I’ll be sharing details from ones that are helpful.

I bought these books a little while back in an urge to commit myself to health and wellness for the long haul. I see this as an improvement in itself, because people with schizoaffective disorder often lack the will to self-care and are either overly self-protective or completely reckless about their wellbeing and future. I speak from my own experience when I say that that has definitely been the case with me. I had to be the person to buy the book – don’t buy books for people with mental illness. It needs to be intrinsically motivated when we research our condition(s).

One book I have been reading is called Treating Psychosis: A Clinician’s Guide to Integrating Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Compassion-Focused Therapy & Mindfulness Approaches within the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Tradition, by a whole lot of people (there are 8 authors, the first one listed is Nicola P. Wright, PhD, CPsych). It is written for clinicians and so perhaps wouldn’t be useful for a lay person. I have a master’s in literature and my coursework emphasized aspects of psychology and psychological frameworks. This book was so good that I told my psychiatrist/therapist to please buy the book and we’re working through it. I am therapy resistant, but with this framework I am making progress. I lead our discussions and send him my filled out worksheets when I feel safe doing so.

One of the most useful things the book has said is that we need to identify our values in life and also set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Limited).

For examples of values I’ll share mine: Artistic, Forgiving, Health oriented, Leader, Learner, and Visionary. Goals are more personal, so I won’t share mine.

The great thing about aligning values with goals is that if we have symptoms and can’t meet our goals on any given day, then we can still live by our values. This provides meaning and motivation for me to stay in the game of life and to feel fulfilled doing so.

We can always choose compassionate action. That’s a value for a lot of people with stigmatizing health conditions and it’s important.

I can always do art. Being artistic is one of my values. Even when I was hospitalized, we had art days where we drew mandalas. This seems childish, but given where I was developmentally at that point, it was actually a very therapeutic exercise. You don’t have to be a good artist. Just play with colors and pastels or something. This is just one example.

Don’t forget I’m not a therapist and that this isn’t medical advice and that every situation is different. I’m just sharing my own experience. But the book is comprehensive and its whole approach is like floaties they put on kids to learn to swim. These 8 authors have thought of everything. They know what they’re talking about.

If you want to learn about my journey to faith and balance in the face of two hospitalizations with schizoaffective disorder, and how I find meaning and live with joy, consider reading my book. It’s free and maybe it will be one of many lenses that help you get back on your feet:

Therapy Outcomes with Psychosis

I was reading a book recently about career counseling and one of the reasons mentioned for poor outcomes is that the person has psychosis. I didn’t even know what psychosis was when I was in therapy, or that I was experiencing it, and I also don’t think that my doctor knew this either. It took a long time to figure that out. And reading this section about the mental health outcomes due to psychosis would have depressed me if I was just getting diagnosed, but now that I am on the right medicine and am not experiencing it I feel affirmed that maybe it wasn’t just me and my own self that had struggled but rather was a sign of the illness.

In thinking back about this experience of therapy with psychosis, it was very damaging to me while experiencing psychosis to be told that I had been mistreated, abused, or otherwise victimized. And I think that this is because we cannot perceive if something is happening now or if it had happened in the past. Telling people that have PTSD, for example, that what happened to them was wrong, might lead to poorer daily functioning. I don’t know what should be done about this, but that was my experience. And thus, in this way, I wonder to what extent the traumatizing legal process in the case of abuse that causes psychosis is placing a double burden on victims who have to relive the abuse and assert that they are not recovered.