- “Risks For Some Medications Rise as Temperatures Climb” (2020)
- PsychCentral Article “Psychiatric Patients at Elevated Risk for Heat-Related Illnesses” (2018)
- Medical Alert from the NY Office of Mental Health (2020)
- Peer Reflection “Could Meds Make It Harder to Take The Heat?” (2019)
Category Archives: Mental Illness
Giving Tuesday – Indeed
Well, it’s three in the morning and I don’t actually want to be up. (I know, right?) It’s officially #GivingTuesdayNOW. In case you didn’t know, that’s today’s version of the Giving Tuesday that happens after Thanksgiving (right after #CyberMonday). It’s been a huge deal to the nonprofit community for the past few years and COVID-19 has provided the perfect opportunity to have (or establish) a second one during the year. It’s not just for COVID-19 relief or for non-profits providing direct services to COVID-19 patients. #GivingTuesdayNow is a day dedicated to helping out ALL non-profits, since a lot of the burden of holding up society in both supply and morale has fallen to them/us in the past several weeks. It comes at a cost. (In case you don’t feel like reading, my list of ideas for how you can help my group is here.)
The non-profit dearest to my heart is DBSA San Diego – the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance of San Diego. As many of you know, I’ve been a part of it for many years. DBSA San Diego at its core is a network of free peer-led support groups for people with any kind of mental health challenge (mental illness) and their family & friends. That means that groups for people with a diagnosis are run by a person with a diagnosis and family groups are run by a family member of a person with a diagnosis, and so on. In order to facilitate groups, those leaders first had to be active participants in the support groups for a minimum amount of time and be stable. Groups are held almost every day of the week all over the county with our home base and office/library being the VA in La Jolla. All groups are drop-in, no RSVP necessary, no copay, no limited number of visits and you don’t even have to tell us your real name. ;).
When the world started shutting down for COVID-19, we were given a courtesy call – 1.5 hours notice that we would be locked out of the VA and unable to hold groups there, or even get to our stuff, “indefinitely.” When I said I hardly believed the forever aspect of “indefinite,” I was told it wasn’t likely we’d be back. Since then I’ve been told we will NOT be kicked out of there for forever, but that doesn’t affect the impact it has on the groups and our people.
We continued meeting in person for as long as possible, missing only 2 days of meetings. A local pizza place helped us out with space (SUPER grateful to RoundTable) and after a LOT of research a small team of us rolled our meetings over onto Zoom, learning together, training others across the country. Despite my fighting it tooth and nail, all of our in-person locations folded. Some will not be coming back to life after the Quarantine is over. We are currently offering 6 Zoom groups per week, including one dedicated Family & Friends group. (schedule can be found on our Meetup group www.Meetup.com/DBSA-San-Diego)
As I watched org after org shut down their groups, close their doors, stop their services, I’d shout at my email and the tv. While others were bored out of their minds and learning to make banana bread while day-drinking in their sweats, we weren’t.
DBSA San Diego provides all support groups free of charge and has continued to provide support groups and crisis services throughout the pandemic. We have a saying in the La Jolla group that we really have lived up to. We say, “Mental illness doesn’t take a holiday and neither do we.” Indeed. Our outreach activities have been cancelled since there are no events in the community, but crisis support and advocacy are still happening. And support between members is as strong as ever. We are still saving lives. I pray it stays that way. I also pray for all the group members who don’t have a computer or internet connection, or don’t/cant for whatever reason get online for a Zoom meeting. We don’t collect information so there’s no way for us to reach out to everyone.
I don’t know what “re-opening” DBSA San Diego will look like. I know it will not be too soon. In the meantime, there is this pesky thing called #GivingTuesdayNow. As my inbox has filled for weeks with orgs asking for money and orgs telling us how to ask for money and when or whatever, I thought I might ask you. I don’t have it in me to make everything just the way it should be – to fix all the data and make pretty campaigns that are well thought-out and put together. I did have a little in me tonight though to piece together the different ways available for people to give to DBSA San Diego today. The easiest way of all is just to share this or share our services with someone who needs them. We at DBSA work incredible magic with very little.
DBSA San Diego is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization led by ALL volunteers and funded entirely through donations from people like you. (EIN 46-4731973) We do not receive state or federal grants or funding. 2019 was a really rough year for fundraising and we haven’t gotten to “pass the bag” in any meetings since the shutdown. We could really use your help!
Anything you can do is greatly appreciated. According to the how-to emails and webinars I’m supposed to draw on the fear and uncertainty of the Coronavirus/COVID-19 and these “unprecedented times.” I swear I HATE that word now. When it comes down to it, here’s the deal – DBSA San Diego is awesome. They are saving lives every night and every day and will continue to do so. Please help. Here is a good collection of ways you can help DBSA San Diego.
Thank you for caring.
PS – When you donate to DBSA San Diego, the funds STAY in San Diego. Make sure which DBSA you’re donating to before you give. ;)
© Michelle Routhieaux 2020
I am so sick of this stupid fucking COVID-19 response. It’s RIDICULOUS and WILL kill more people than it saves. It’s quarantine this and cancel that EVERY FUCKING DAY. I don’t give a shit about COVID-19. What I do give a shit about is how the people “fighting” or “preventing” it are interfering in my life.
Is this random virus the next Ebola come to wipe out whole states at a time in a bloody gory mess? Or is it just a new illness that happens to be smarter that we are at the moment but is still being managed, for the most part, by modern medicine? Seriously.
It’s the numbers that make me sick. (No not Donald Trump’s precious numbers).
There are 19 deaths in this country from COVID-19. (see WHO Situation dashboard for up to date numbers ) There is ONE, yes ONE, “presumptively” positive woman diagnosed in San Diego and ALL the town goes nuts! The VA shut itself down, declaring a Level 2 Infectious Disease protocol. UCSD made all its classes virtual for the Spring quarter. Everyone’s FREAKING OUT!
Besides just being annoying and totally interfering with my life and others, the actions and inactions the government is recommending are GOING to kill people. Think about it. When you isolate or “quarantine” people (or recommend that people quarantine themselves), PEOPLE GO CRAZY. In a society already suffering from depression, and anxiety and pathological loneliness, suicide rates should be set to spike. Pharmacies can only mail-deliver certain medications. What about the rest and the pharmacies that don’t? And what about the controlled substances that require us to go in to the doctor every month and for them to submit electronically? And what about the mailmen? The businesses that provide for communities are shutting down and the stores that are open are being raided. Caregivers who are isolating or quarantined are not caring for those who can’t care for themselves. What happens to them? Death. People don’t eat. Random swaths of children or teenagers just congregate wherever since school is out. Parents who aren’t even sick have to leave jobs, shutting down more businesses, to take care of children who aren’t sick but whose schools have been closed due to the panic.
Even instructing people to wash their hands for 20 seconds at a time will push us closer to being back in a drought we just escaped. Or for people who prefer to “sanitize” their hands constantly, good luck on not having terribly dry hands, killing all the good bacteria, and totally messing with your body’s natural balance. Don’t get me started on the people making their own hand sanitizers. This is also a great public validation for all the people with contamination fears or harm obsessions as part of OCD. I can hear it now, “See? The world really IS a terrible place and I should wash my hands in bleach forever.”
I was trying to figure out the other day why this disease response bothers me most. Then I realized it’s financial. My dad had Huntington’s Disease, what’s known as an Orphan Disease because there are so few patients with it that finding a cure is not fiscally responsible. There aren’t enough patients who would take the drug to pay for the development of the drug, even if they know it would work. This COVID-19 is a gold mine, a race to the cure for biotech companies who know that people and, presumably, governments around the world will buy their medication and possibly require their vaccine. Whoever gets there first wins. Safety requirements and timeframes will be waived because SO MANY people are affected or at risk. Me? I went to chicken pox parties as a child. I’m no fan of disease but I don’t think anyone should be separated from society or that big pharma profits should allow for the spreading of hysteria.
Think about it. What if we could have this kind of attention and serious concern for things we ACTUALLY deal with on a regular basis? This illness has killed 20 people in the US and people are going nuts. But according to the CDC, “34.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 13.0% of all US adults” have diabetes. That’s a disease we know how to treat and yet more than 80,000 die here of it each year. We lose 22 veterans per day to suicide alone. (You know the number is higher.) In California, someone dies by suicide every 2 hours. 1 in 5 Americans will experience a mental illness sometime in their life. 1 in 25 will experience a severe mental illness. The suicide rate for some mental illnesses is as high as 25%. We HAVE treatments that work, therapies that are proven to work yet it’s not profitable enough to freak out the public enough to convince them to pay for the treatment and engage them enough to follow through it. No. Toilet paper raids and mass hysteria sounds so much more productive. Grrrrrr…
I spend a lot of time helping people and this nonsense not only makes that more difficult but makes all of our lives worse. No one is addressing the high number of highly suggestible people who will develop purely somatic symptoms. I’ve seen anxiety addressed once in the news-frenzy but not the paranoia and delusions this is creating. I’m also very concerned about the push for people not to touch each other or be close. Touch is SO extremely important. What is the effect on the human body when we remove touch? It’s nasty. It’s worth the rant, even though I know it will change nothing.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
Choosing the Smoke
What did I do to make the fire so upset that it had to burn the forests, the homes? Chasing the smoke doesn’t put out the embers. The beautiful glow envelopes me. Is controlling the fire like killing the Jews? Emotional holocaust? Can’t put out the fire by chasing the smoke. When it no longer appears, I’m not gone. Am I just hiding or have I found my home? Stop pursuing and the smoke may kill me. Alas, we chase my smoke. We dance.
Inspired by a story about being a log in a burning fire and instead of others taking you out, them chasing the smoke instead. For me – chasing the smoke is maintaining the secrets & lies. Sweep the path. It’s all in my head. Nothing is actually real.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
The Grand Kidnapping
I wrote this in a group I was supposed to be paying attention to. Something really caught my attention and I found myself in a place I haven’t seen in years. Blessed and understanding. I was close to God. I’d like to spend more time there.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2019
I don’t understand
I don’t understand. I may have written about this before but I don’t remember and I don’t really care.
I don’t understand. To me it’s a simple phrase with a simple meaning. There is no extra fluff attached, no alternate meaning. Last year my therapist and I got into it because I kept telling him I didn’t understand what he was saying and he told me he believed what I meant was that I didn’t agree. Nope, only disagreed with that.
I don’t follow like other people do. Or maybe I follow too closely. I am cursed with the ability to spot errors, omissions, incongruities, however small. I need the info coming at me to make sense and if it doesn’t I will say that I don’t understand. I am blunt. I ask questions. I have no qualms with raising a stink to get an answer. It is especially disturbing to me when someone “answers” my questions with responses that are unrelated. I will state so and repeat the question, rephrasing it if necessary. A few years ago I started giving up after a few tries but not before stating that my question had still not been answered. I have somewhat of a fan base in some settings because of it. It’s not fulfilling to engage with someone who’s not the slightest idea what I’m talking about. In fact, it’s maddening – probably to both sides but for different reasons. I’m looking for information. If the person doesn’t have it, or won’t give it, it would behoove them to just say that.
People think I’m being rude or annoying. They jump to conclusions about my motives or what I really think or mean. I’m accused of alternate intentions. They tell me what I should say or do or think or not think instead. They often get very upset that I don’t understand and/or that they don’t understand what I mean when I point out whatever they said doesn’t make any sense – in general, not just to me. If they stop to follow the line of thought and learn what’s missing, sometimes they will admit that it really doesn’t make sense. Usually instead I just get confronted with anger, accused of things or people just walk away or insult and then ignore me, then pretend it never happened.
Sometimes the topic is important to me and I’m upset AND don’t understand. Usually though, I’m somewhat devoid of emotion or visibly confused or disturbed when asking questions attached to, “I don’t understand.” I can’t always communicate very well in that state. It’s the mockery and invalidation that usually push me over the edge. I’m not stupid. I can read body language and I understand your words.
Over the years I’ve learned how to convert curiosity/question/notice/wonder straight to bitter hopelessness and move on with my day. I can feel my self turn to ash and float downwards inside me as I do nothing or walk away. Fighting the thought that I don’t matter isn’t worth it because in those moments it’s completely true. What I have to say or my concern or thought doesn’t matter and if I pursue matter-ing it could (and has) make things worse. I ask much like Sheldon Cooper, with a level of non-intellectual understanding only slightly higher.
So I end up hating people. That I very much understand. I “speak Michelle,” as a provider of mine said long ago, and not many others do. I am cross-lingual in a few other person-dialects, but in observation the two-way mirror only reveals one side. This morning’s argument was me asking for details about an event I was asked to donate something to for a raffle, which I believe is questionable but didn’t point out.
Excerpts from convo this morning:
Person B: We always have raffle giveaways at our events to promote wellness…
Person B: Why what (sic)
Me: Why have a standard of giving things away?
Person B: It’s not a standard. It’s something we like to do for our members. Why not? It’s generous. Omg!! You don’t like free mental health stuff??? Interesting.
Me: Don’t put words in my mouth. Free mental health stuff is fine sometimes, but it all costs money and at the end of the day I have to sit with and justify on paper what we spent the group’s money on. Does that make sense? I don’t mind contributing to your raffle. I just wanted to know the details.
I was livid but calm in text. If in her language “always” doesn’t equal a “standard,” there is no purpose in trying to get through.
It’s harder for me to interact with other humans I don’t understand than to harm myself by attempting to fill my own needs without engaging them. This afternoon’s debacle is within myself about why the HELL I can’t do anything today because I can’t think because my head hurts on the one day I have actual time. (PRN)
So very alone. I hate myself.
I don’t understand.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
The Only Safe Space
We talked a lot about the concept of impermanence. The colors were bright and the idea scared me. I was present, some of the time, but answered, “Bubbles!” at a less than ideal moment. I went outside in a very dark space and started blowing bubbles I had in my purse. As I pondered, I watched the bubbles pop – like Cinderella does when she’s scrubbing the floor and singing. I watched the bubbles pop. And it dawned on me that they were proof I am capable of accepting an impermanent thing without freaking out.
Then I figured I should probably go someplace safe. At first nothing came to mind, but then I remembered I have a list of places on a crisis plan in my journal. I tried to recall them instead of looking and, as the places came to mind, I asked myself what they all had in common… The only thing these places had in common was me. So, the only safe space is me. It’s a lot to take in.
Session 5/30/18, Drawing 6/19/19, Description 7/7/18
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Permission to Breathe
From Session Work – 5/15/2018
Excerpt from related writing:
“S- is right. I have been losing weight… If I inhale just right, like in lyrical dancing or turns, that feeling comes back. Bone sticking out, ribs expanded, hollow underneath, organs hug my spine, shoulders down, hips squared, head high, sometimes on my toes with beautiful arms, or just the torso part with the rest dancing in my head. I haven’t had the privilege of that feeling in a very long time. And if I can do that again, then it’s okay to make shapes when I breathe. The crescent moon – belly soft and round on one side but when you spin it around the other side is concave. Just like my belly when I breathe or dance. I’ve been thinking about this symbol. I drew it on my hand so every time I look down I see it. It gives me permission to breathe. I AM the crescent moon… I even hate my body less today.”
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Make friends with Fear
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
There’s still hope in Brown
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Stroke Code Thursday
Today has been one of the most harrowing days of my life. I’m currently propped up on pillows on the couch staring, half-watched the tv. Mom’s falling asleep with Ellie in the chair, intermittently telling me random things. I’m trying to to type but it’s extremely difficult.
I went to the VA MH Council meeting this morning – no problems. I mean, I didn’t want to go and felt a bit out of sorts but no more than normal. I was running late but participated a lot and socialized with Jean & Howard and McCail after, walked down with everyone. I didn’t want to leave just yet, wasn’t sure about plans for the day, so I sat down in the lobby and journaled and charted. It’s something I’ve done before. I like having moments to myself, unrushed, and I like watching the volunteer interactions there at the front. I was starting to feel like my blood sugar was low, getting a bit weak and disoriented. I wrote it down. I was alarmed when I got up to leave and began stumbling to the right. My purse is heavy and I used it as a counterweight. I figured if I could just get some food I’d probably be just fine. I made it to the Valet, ate a glucose tab, made it to the Chipotle parking structure, thought things were fine. I worked on something on my phone before getting out of the car. But when I did I was still falling and stumbling to the right. I had a heck of a time trying to get up the broken escalator stairs. I was starting to freak out as I waited at Chipotle. It was hard to breathe but I wasn’t feeling anxious. I made it through the line leaning on the counter, could barely hold myself up. I held myself up on the table until I could sit down. A growing portion of the right side of my face felt pressure, then tingling, then burning. Lips sat in a pout. My right hand and arm were shaking so bad I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced and God in my head kept telling me, “GO.” I knew I wasn’t safe to drive. I drank half my soda, bagged the food, and called an Uber. Thankfully, there are many around me.
I was lucky to arrive at the hospital in an utter lull. I knew what would probably happen and did – Stroke Code. Front of the line, many nurses and doctors all around testing everything under the sun. I was having trouble speaking clearly, moving my right side purposefully, holding a steady gaze. I had no pain. I wasn’t anxious. I was actually quite peaceful. All I’d wanted to do that day was get my nails painted but that would have been after Chipotle. Lots of blood tests, urine tests, eventually an MRI.
They were much less interested when they figured out I’m a psych patient. Reminded me SO much of Adrienne and scared me, but I was exhausted – both from shaking so much and fear and from the Ativan they gave me to try to stop the shaking for the MRI. I couldn’t move if I’d tried in the MRI thanks to drugs but I couldn’t stop the twitching/shaking. It’s been like that sometimes in the past few weeks. I don’t know why. The MRI people were nice. The last doctor not so much. The nurse came in and said great that my mother was there and she could drive me home. Ummm, excuse me what? The doctor came in and said my MRI of my brain was perfect and there was nothing wrong. I looked up at him and said, “I’m gonna have to call ‘Bullshit’ on you for that one there but continue…” He gave no explanation of any of what happened or why, how to prevent it from happening again, what to do if it comes back. Nothing. He just left. Dickwad. It’s really hard to type this ‘cuz my fingers are unpredictably shaking and I’m mostly lying down ‘cuz I’m too weak to continue sitting.
I didn’t call my mom ‘til just before the MRI. I knew she was off work then and she’d want to know. I didn’t ask her to come or for anything. I specifically did not need people freaking out around me. Minus all the patient reports outside, that room was so peaceful. I prayed and watched and felt. I listened. I tried to write. It worked a little. There was no tv or music, just me. And that was okay. The Ativan toward the end made me really tired and I know it’s still making me tired now. I’m still getting waves of confusion and dizziness. I contacted Dr. M but I think he wasn’t there.
So what do I do now? I asked David and Soleil for cancellations tomorrow and David called me. After talking a little, I get to see Soleil tomorrow. He says if there’s nothing wrong with my brain then it’s all psych and I’m under a tremendous amount of stress. Don’t you throw that psychosomatic crap at me. When I’m stressed my pain gets worse. I don’t go ‘round fake believing I’m having a stroke. Too much work if nothing else. I told him I agree I’m under a shit ton of stress but ALSO that something neurologically is WRONG with me, STILL. Fluids don’t solve that. Neither does the Chinese food I ate after. Nor will a few hours’ sleep. Today, though, wasn’t stressful before this. I wanted to get my nails done!
I need help but God only knows what with. I’m SOOOO tired and sore. God save the queen. Here’s to a tomorrow sans weakness, shaking, falling over and pretty large needles. Here’s to a tomorrow that’s not so scary and more easy to understand. Please pray if you do. Thanks.
Ⓒ Michelle Routhieaux 2018
AND I’m okay
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Open to What Is
I wanted to share my latest coping skill – memory on my fingers. Ever since my drawing Spots of Self-Compassion I’ve been using my pink Sharpie to remind me to have self-compassion. I put dots on my fingers or the inside of my wrist or up my arm. When I see the dots I hear “self-compassion” and, even if just for the moment, I soften my stance against myself and breathe. I choose what’s best for me.
A friend got me a collection of a bunch of new nail polishes and I’ve had designs running through my head for weeks – literally. What I really wanted to do was way more complicated. In my mind I saw white with pink dots on my left hand with “BE” on two fingers instead of dots. I wanted my right hand to have a different color on each finger and for the fingers to spell out “CHOOSE” in black letters with an infinity symbol on my middle finger instead of the letter Os. That was way too complicated for me to pull off right now and I’m pretty sure it would cost way too much for me to ask for at the nail place. I decided to go with just white and pink dots.
Yesterday I had an appointment with my doctor in the morning and I was actually on time, except that she forgot I was supposed to be there so I didn’t get to see her. That gave me some extra time to pick up my shoes from the cobbler and sit in the car marveling at the rain. I had time, which is new to me. I sat in the car listening to piano music and started the process. I’d hunted down some cheap white nail polish. This has been on my mind for weeks. I didn’t try to make it pretty. What’s the use if I’m not finished? I needed to be on time for David’s anyway. I finished the white, which honestly looks like white-out, and went into my appointment. He was quite unkind about the messy nails. I think he should be more appreciative of coping skills that live on my hands.
That night I finished them. I tried making dots with nail polish but it was nearly impossible to make circles so I switched to Sharpie. Tip – If you put a top coat over Sharpie the color runs a little. I put glitter over the top of that and the parts that ran are less noticeable. I left the two fingers with nail polish dots as somewhat of an exposure. Each time I look at them I choose to accept that they don’t match and to keep them that way.
Are my nails perfect? No. Neat? No. Will the polish last a long time? Not likely. Do they look great? Not really. Will anyone else understand without an explanation? Not likely. But you know what? I don’t care. These dots on my nails have already proved majorly helpful in redirecting me from intense emotion or self-judgement or shame to self-compassion, to moments of breathing, to small reminders that in every moment I get to choose. I am grateful for the coping skill that lives on my nails right now.
I challenge you to put a coping skill on yourself somewhere you look often. Where could Sharpie spots help you?
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
To NOT Feel Safe
Fingers & Toes – A few can hold parts of my brain, secrets, but when they’re all full my brain can’t function.
© Michelle Routhieaux 2018
Open My Eyes
© Michelle Routhieaux 2017