Category Archives: guest blogger

“Ragtime” by E. L. Doctorow – narrated by E. L. Doctorow (Welcome to NaBloPoMo) & words from Ricardo)

(Wow that subject ended up all rhyming eh?)It’s November, so that means it’s NaBloPoMo time here at the Roof. I’ve written a post of some sorts every single day all through the month of November since I began this blog back in 2009. Since I began writing my book posts, I’ve tried really hard not to just use those as an easy topic each day for NaBloPoMo since that feels like cheating but oh my am I behind on book posts! I’m so behind that even writing a post a day for thirty days will not catch me up.

So, here’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to throw life details even more into these book posts for this month. I’ve really needed to come up with some way of not getting so behind on book posts since I devour books like an addict. I’ve also left out fun life stuff I’d like to look back on in five or ten years since I’m not blogging regularly.

So, my goal for NaBloPoMo 2014 is not only to write every day and put a dent in my book posts, but also to force myself into the habit of writing every day period. I have two novels marinating in my head that need to get written and I’m hoping NaBloPoMo will finally give me the shove I need to create a writing routine.

Want to come with me on this adventure this month? I hope so!

Alright, so we begin with ‘Ragtime’, which my friend Ricardo and I have been referring to as THE book because neither of us can ever remember the title. to give you an idea of how behind I am on book posts, we read this book back in in April. April! I mean, that was when the 2014 baseball season was new and full of promise and I had just met my Rays and all my Twitter family friends in Florida and life was good, before David Price got traded to the Tigers…before Andrew friedman left to go be general manager of the Dodgers…before Joe Maddon left to manage the Cubs, before my heart was split apart and the pieces were tossed away and discarded like the piece of a fingernail that breaks off unexpectedly and I need to stop thinking about my Rays and get back to this horrible book my friend and I read.

My friend Ricardo and I are avid audio book listeners, often turning each other on to books and authors the other had never heard of. I’m currently reading a trilogy I absolutely adore thanks to him. When Audible had ‘Ragtime’ as a daily deal, I read the publisher’s summary and thought wow, that’s right up Ricardo’s alley. I told him about it and he picked it up to. We really thought it was going too be a fun bit of alternate history and the reviews at Audible raved about it and come on, it’s a classic.

I couldn’t even finish it. I think I got close to finishing it and if I remember right, I fell asleep at the end and missed the last nearly three hours. That happens sometimes when I’m reading at night in bed and usually I back up and find my place the next day. With this book I didn’t even bother. I just didn’t care. I didn’t give a lick about any of the characters. I couldn’t even follow the plot or even figure out what the plot was supposed to be and the author narrated the book which is rarely ever good. He sounded like that kid the teacher calls on in social studies to read the next few paragraphs of a really boring textbook.

That’s all I’ve got on this book. Ricardo wrote his opinion for me too so please give a warm round of applause to my friend Ricardo!

First, I can count on one hand the times I haven’t finished an audiobook. Usually, I can fight through confusing plots, bad narration, penny-novel imagery, and tough vocabulary. But all in one book? This is asking way, way, too much for a person not getting paid to endure the madness. Ragtime was written in the 1970’s and takes place in the earlyparts of the 20th century. I love me some historical fiction so was excited when Ro pointed this book out to me. And it got some really good reviews which help fan the flames of my curiosity about the book. After the first 3 chapters of Ragtime, I kept wondering if I bought the wrong book. The author jumped from scene to scene with what in my opinion, was for no rhyme or reason. I kept thinking, Maybe I need to go back and start again. I did, and was just as lost and confused. I have no idea what those reviewers saw in this book. Mid way through, I gave up. Instead of entertaining me, the book was frustrating me like a particularly troublesome math problem. Thank goodness Audible has a refund program.

Thanks so much for that, Ricardo. I need to get your thoughts on a book we both enjoyed, agreed?

Rating: Dismal

That rating is for the book, not Ricardo’s review. A dismal rating is my equivalent of a one out of five stars rating. Yikes.

“Ragtime” at Audible

That was the twenty-eighth book of the year. I might write more than one post a day, but only one will get the NaBloPoMo label and only those posts will have life stuff attached to the book post. Sound like a plan, Stan?

the next book on the list is ‘Love Life’ by Rob Lowe. It was definitely not written by creepy Rob Lowe, though the Mansion pool scene was slightly creepy.

So, I was able to add the NaBloPoMo 2014 tag to this post since it’s a new one, but something has happened with WordPress and I can’t add any of my other labels since the checkboxes aren’t labeled. I recently updated to Yosemite and it has horrible issues with Voiceover. Blarf.

WordPress app to the rescue! Seriously, iThings are becoming more and more preferable to my Mac.

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Filed under 2014 Book List, Audio books, baseball, fellowship, guest blogger, NaBloPoMo 2014, writing

MH – A positive perspective *guest blogger*

Today’s guest post comes from Rachel. (name used with permission) I really like her positive outlook on living life with a mental illness. She has definitely found the coping skills needed to attack life. Thank you for sharing with us Rachel!

***

Living With Mental Illness

When I first heard about mental health awareness month I thought it was a great idea. I thought initially I would share about my diagnosis, but there’s more to me then a label or my disability or the color of my hair, so I thought I would share how it is to live day-to-day with a mental illness.

When someone meets me, they first notice my blindness since I have a guide dog. A person won’t even notice my mental illness, although it took a long time for that to happen. I’m glad that even though I have my moments of mental illness they are far and few between. It’s not something I’m hiding, I just don’t let it stop me from achieving my goals and living a happy productive life.

There have been times in my life that I wasn’t as stable, and I know I’ve made mistakes as a result of that instability. However, thanks to a great support system and great coping skills I am a much more stable, content person.

The best advice I would give to someone who has a mental illness or is down and experiencing any symptoms of depression such as not eating, eating to much or sleeping to little or to much is to seek help. Help in most circumstances is only a phone call away, or as was pointed out earlier on the blog you can get help by going online. I want you to know this, though. Even though we all have good days, we also will have bad days mental health wise. Just know that no matter what you’re going through, someone somewhere understands, and you’re not alone.

***

I really like how Rachel says there is more to her than her mental illness. I know for me, it’s been a big help to focus on me, and less on my disability and struggles. Strength comes from within, once we get the help in finding the skills to rely on that strength.

Thanks again, Rachel!

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Mh – Living with PTSD *guest blogger*

I received this entry in my inbox from Anonymous today and if this doesn’t explain what it’s like to live with PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, I don’t know what does. I had to absorb this before I was ready to post, so I will give a warning that this is a very intense post. Anonymous told me it was very cathartic and helpful to write, so I’m glad to provide the medium for this person to share. All I can say is wow. I won’t be writing a closing to this post. Thank you, Anonymous, for sharing. I hope sharing this helps another, like it’s helped you; maybe if someone reads this, they’ll know they’re not alone.

***

Living with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

When I was a child growing up in western Nebraska’s “Panhandle”, our family lived in a house on a hill on the outskirts of our tiny, isolated railroad town. Just down the hill, there was a small lake, called Lang Lake. One winter, when I was around ten years old, I found myself walking home from school alone. I came to the edge of the frozen lake and stood there for some time, listening to two voices. One told me to take the snow-covered path around the lake and up the hill, and go home. The other voice came from the middle of the lake, calling me out onto the ice. I listened to that voice, and, with my backpack and Muppets lunch pail in hand, took a cautious step out onto the ice. I discerned the spot where the ice was most thin and perilous, and walked directly out onto the middle of the lake. The ice was so thin that the lakeweeds underneath eerily brushed the top of the ice, and I stood, as frozen as the lake itself, on that spot of clear, thin ice, staring down at dead lakeweeds in the frozen water underneath. I was alternately filled with horror and hope—horror at the thought that I could plunge any second into those murky, icy waters, and hope that it would indeed happen. There is no more to remember after that. I must have gone home. But, twenty-five years later, I still see those frozen lakeweeds in dark waters beneath my feet, and sometimes, today, the ice cracks and I sink below into the depths, and the ice closes over my head.

It has come to my attention recently, at age thirty-five, that there are Two. I realized this a couple of days ago as I was leisurely enjoying a cup of coffee with my mom on a lazy weekend morning. I mentioned to her that someone different was living inside my body—someone I hadn’t seen in twenty years. I told my mom that I had to somehow find the Other One again, the one that I had created, patched together, invented. This One that I have desperately worked so hard to create is utterly unlike the Other, Ancient one. The One that I have come to know and love is extraverted, outgoing, funny, wild, adventurous, joyful. The Ancient One hated people, couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, was terrified and was powerless. I thought she had died when I was fourteen, and a started out from scratch to make a new One. But here she is, very much alive, and very much living inside me.

I called the twenty-four hour crisis hotline three days ago, because my therapist had a family emergency and was out of the office for a few days. I told the crisis counselor on the phone what was happening to me, and asked her if I was going crazy. I told her I have memories that are intense and overwhelming. I told her that sometimes, the memories cease to be memories, because that would imply that they are firmly placed in the past. Instead, they become my present, and everything about my past is suddenly real, I am reliving it, and there is danger all around. She told me that this is a “flashback.” Okay, so I’m having flashbacks too. What else? I wake up every night at two or three in the morning, and can’t get back to sleep. I often spend days coasting on three or four hours of sleep a night.

And I startle! I work as a cashier at a bookstore, and, the day I called the crisis line, a very tall, imposing man came to the register to pay for his items. He leaned, quite suddenly, over the counter to toss his coffee cup in my trash can, and my heart stopped. I jumped two feet backwards. After I got my bearings and my heartbeat slowed down, I was consumed with rage at this man. How dare that bastard . . . . . how dare he . . . . how dare he! I wanted to hit him. Later in the day, I was sitting alone in one of The Rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous, having arrived first. I was sitting in my favorite, comfy recliner in the room, waiting for the others to arrive, drinking a cup of hot coffee. Suddenly, R. opened the door loudly and came in. I threw my cup of coffee ten feet in the air, soaking my hair, my clothes, my purse, and the recliner. R. was baffled and felt horrible. I was baffled and felt horrible.

The most disarming thing, though, is the rage. In my program of Alcoholics Anonymous, we often talk about resentments. But these are not resentments—this is RAGE. The New One can now recall what happened to the Ancient One—she remembers now that when the Ancient One was ten, he would separate her from the rest of the kids on the playground. He would bark out her last name and would take her away, off in the distance. He had very muscular, powerful arms, and he would wrap one of his arms around her neck, while he did things to her. And the New One steps into the shoes of the Ancient One and sees the sinewy bicep, feels the tightness around her neck and the terror of being strangled, senses the unreality and disbelief as the touching begins, and hears the questions he asks: “How are things at home? Do your parents fight a lot? Do you hate it at home?”

Now at age thirty-five, for the first time, there is rage. The New One and the Ancient One fuse frequently these days, and they, together, add a new scene to the memory. The Two come together, rip that muscular bicep right out of its shoulder socket, and beat him to death with it. I told my new sponsor yesterday that I think I might be homicidal, and that I wish the motherf*@#$ weren’t dead, because now I don’t have the opportunity to kill him. I don’t have the opportunity to make him feel the terror little children felt as he screamed, hurled objects like chairs and basketballs at us, touched us and told us he would kill us if we told.

But I told. In the three-and-a-half year brutal litigation that followed, as my parents and I fought to put this man behind bars—unsuccessfully–I listened to the song “Invincible” by Pat Benatar a lot.

“This shattered dream you cannot justify
We’re gonna scream until we’re satisfied
What are we running for?
We’ve got the right to be angry
What are we running for?
When there’s no where we can run to anymore.”

The upshot of PTSD? I’m gonna scream until I’m satisfied.

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MH – Phobias and anxiety *guest blogger*

Thank you Katrin, (name used with permission) for contributing this post and explaining how a phobia is developed very early on and can be disasterous when not respected. I really appreciate you sharing this with me, and like I’ve said, I really wanted to keep this series as personal as possible. Guest posts are so valuable, in my opinion, to really get a message acrossed.

***

Phobia: An unreasonable sort of fear that can cause avoidance and panic. Phobias are a relatively common type of anxiety disorder.

Panic: A sudden strong feeling of fear that prevents reasonable thought or action.

A phobia of a situation, animal, object, etc is something that prevents reasonable thought or action. In other words, the person can’t just “get over it” by force of will power. Generally phobias need to be worked through with various types of behavior modification such as systematic desensitization or cognitive behavioral therapy and it can take years for treatment to reach a level where the person can now rationally and reasonably look at what is happening at that moment in time.

Sometimes phobias are of things that can, if the phobia is not treated, cause the person harm. For example I have a phobia of needles, specifically needles that inject or draw things in or out of my person. This phobia began many, many years ago when I was a child and was inappropriately treated at my pediatricians office for routine blood draws and inoculations. At that time I was a young child so had no control over the situation and no one addressed my fears of being restrained and I felt attacked and assaulted every time there were needles involved from the time I can remember on, which was about age 2.

Once I reached an age that I could more effectively communicate my fears, I was still ignored and told that I was being unreasonable at that these procedures had to be done and I needed to get over it. Guess what? I didn’t. Time after time I was placed in flooding situations where my fight or flight mechanism clicked into play and very quickly a thoroughly engrained phobia arose.

Having a phobia of this type can be very dangerous especially if you are in the situation where you need medical attention that requires needles.

For many years I avoided this problem. I just couldn’t handle reliving those memories of those traumatic experiences. Just thinking about having lab work would send me into a panic and meltdown. Then over time, with work, it got to where I could manage having blood drawn if it was done in a very specific way that I felt I was in control of the situation and the lab technicians were listening and respecting what I had to say. I still cannot handle having injections done.

I really felt that I had made progress on this and for the past few years have found a lab that generally respects my problems and works with me to get what blood draws need to be done accomplished with the least amount of stress to me. That was until recently. I take a medication currently that requires yearly lab work to test for certain levels in your blood to make sure the level is not too high. The time had come around for that yearly test so my sister drove me to the hospital where I normally have a good rapport with the technicians, except this time things went very wrong.

This time the technicians did not respect what I said and were belittling. I was told I was being uncooperative and that I should get over it. I felt that I was being very cooperative. I was being calm, I was being rational, I was being communicative of what I was capable of doing and not doing. I was told that I was not giving them options. I did give them options, I just did not give them one specific option that they wanted in particular as at this time I am incapable of having blood drawn from one specific place due to my previous history when I was a child. I am still working on that. The fact that I was able to sit there all the while I was being told that I was not being a “good patient” and that I was choosing to be “difficult” and not have a meltdown or just get up and leave was a testament to how far I have come in the past 5 years even with having blood draws done.

Finally the technician agreed to take the blood the way I asked her to and I was able to leave. At which point I had my meltdown in the car and in my own home for the rest of the day. I felt like I had just taken about 10 huge steps backwards in the process. Simply because the technicians that day were unable to listen to me when I attempted to very clearly explain my phobia and how I needed to have things done in order to get my blood successfully drawn. Instead she felt the need to belittle me and tell me that I just needed to get over my fears. I am sorry but if only it were that simple.

Phobias are real problems. They are not simple silly things that can be turned on or off at will. They are not things that a person can just “get over.” I will now have to go back and work twice as hard to get myself back to the point where I was before I had my most recent blood draw. All because one person decided that a phobia was not a real problem and that what I had to say was not to be respected or listened to.

***

I have to say I’m sickened by the way you were treated in the lab. I was a phlebotomist back in my sighted days and while I might have thought some requests were a little odd, I always did what the patient wanted with a smile on my face. I had patients that had to lay down, I had patients request a certain kind of needle, I had one patient request a spray that makes the skin cold. I always wanted my patients to be comfortable, and I’m just sickened by how you were treated.

We never know why someone needs something done a certain way. While it might not make sense to us, we have no idea what someone has been through in their past that might have cause a phobia and lasting anxiety. Again, I think a little understanding would have improved this situation. Again, the running theme here is that we need to be understanding of our fellow humans.

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MH – Manifestation of depression *guest blogger*

The following post was written by a fellow blink, and she shares about how her depression has manifested in ways other than crying all the time or wanting to off herself. In our correspondence after she sent me her post, she talked about how it was easier to write this time. She had only written it out once before, and she had cried that time, and this time no tears were shed. So it showed her that she’s accepting things a lot better now. She also thanked me for letting her share this and it helped to know that someone might learn something, or just that someone was listening. I’ve only known her a short time, but she’s an incredible woman and she reminds me a lot of me in the way she’s gone after life and doesn’t let her blindness stop her. So, here’s Amanda’s story. (name used with permission)

***

Well, unlike most people who go blind later on in life, I didn’t get
depressed. I stared it in the face and looked at as a new challenge. I
got my depression later on and not exactly sure why. I wasn’t the kind
of depressed where I wanted to harm myself or anything. I was the kind
of depressed where it came out in what the doc calls “Frustration”
which he says stems from depression. Here is where the doc thinks it
starts when my biological dad died in 1994 when I was about 7 years
old. I wasn’t fully capable of understanding the whole thing at the
time since I was so young. That is where the professionals think it
starts. Then throw in being a sickly kid most of my life, being picked
on all through junior high and hhigh school… and then going blind
the second semester of your senior year of Highschool. Also losing two
close friends a few months apart from tragic accidents doesn’t help
much. According to the pros thats a molitov cocktail. But it didn’t
really come out in full force till about a year and half ago that this
was my problem, that everyone just reffered to my attitude problem. We
tried the medications and I wasn’t much for the zombiefied feeling so
I just quit them. Yes, sometimes I have those days where I go from
happy to pissed off in 0 seconds, and those days that I go from happy
to tears for no reason known to myself in 0 seconds. My boyfriend of 3
years now is used to this and knows its just best to leave me alone
when I have these what we like to call ” moments” for lack of a better
word. Wehn I have these “moments” I just try to stay home and not
interact with a whole lot of people. I lost some friends and hurt some
people along the way by not secluding myself. Some people would think
I am crazy for my mood swings, but really I am not. I am just
depressed and dealing with it in my own way. None of the doctors seem
to think its bad the way I deal because, I don’t physically hurt
myself or others and I am for the most part otherwise healthy. I am
not good at telling stories, and this one is kind of hard for me. I
wanted to contribute to RO’s MH awareness month to talk about my
depression and how I deal. I also wanted to put out there that there
is other depression other than the kind that you just want to off
yourself. I have some funny stories about scaring people with my mood
swings and some ones that I am ashamed of and ashamed of my behavior.
I now know how to deal with myself and so does my boyfriend. My mom
doesn’t quite understand and thats fine, because we don’t live
together anymore and she doesn’t have to really deal with me like the
boyfriend does. I don’t like to share that I have this problem. Its
really a issue of not being able to let go. I guess or best I can
figure I don’t have what it takes to get over stuff, not the big stuff
at least. I can make myself function in an every day life style, but
in the back of my head and the bottom of my heart I always remember
what happened and it triggers the mood swings when I bring them back
up. Sometimes these things bring themselves back up and I have no
control over what happens, except to just stay home and try to not
hurt anyone’s feelings. Really, I just wanted my story out there,
because I believe that people should know depression is not just
crying, thinking life sucks, and wanting to end your life. It can be
so many more things, so many more things. It also manifests itself in
many different ways and we all deal with it differently. So the next
time you see someone crying or going off on a anger tangent, stop and
think if they really have a reason behind it or is there something
below the surface that could be bothering them thats fueling the fire.
Don’t always write it off as an attitude problem.

***

Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us. This just adds to my thoughts about having a little more compassion in life. I’m really learning that when someone “out there” rubs me the wrong way, that they’re probably dealing with something in their life that I have no idea about. I find this story really interesting, about how Amanda’s depression has manifested. I also really like the ways she has found to cope, and that she’s realized it’s ok to be alone sometimes. I think it’s really healthy to be comfortable hanging out with yourself. 🙂

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MH – Living with the stigma *guest blogger*

This guest post was written by my friend Candy. We met back when I hung out at Psych Central, and she’s one of the few I’m still in touch with. (name and affiliation used with permission) I asked her if she’d like to contribute to my series and I’m so glad she agreed. The following post really gives you a glimpse into what it’s like living with the stigma of mental illness, how off handed remarks about the mentally ill can dig a wound in your soul, how your daily life and livelihood is affected. I’m really glad Candy wrote this for us, and I’m glad she got to have a voice. There is some swearing in the post, just a warning for my younger readers. But I love it since I’m usually so squeeky clean in my writing here. 😉

***

I wrote a column about this once. My editor spiked it. This is my revenge.

I covered courts at my last job. I happened to be doing my morning rounds at the courthouse one day at the same time a competitor was there doing the same thing. Without naming names or gender, let’s just say this person is a well-known doofus.

Under discussion was the case of a 19-year-old girl. I don’t remember what she’d done on that particular occasion, but I remember covering her sentencing on a variety of charges. At 19, this girl had racked up 27 — that’s TWENTY-SEVEN — felony charges, been married and divorced, and had a kid whose father also was in prison.

The doofus mentioned above, who was snarking about this with one of the court clerks, laughed it off by saying “yeah, she’s bipolar or something,” in a tone of voice that suggested “woo-woo, batshit-crazy!”

Sometimes I say something, sometimes I don’t. I wasn’t in the mood to have a battle of wits with an unarmed person that day, so I didn’t. But I did write a column about it. Which got spiked. Because, although it would have reached about 30,000 subscribers and untold numbers of others via the Web, and thus been a tremendous public service, it made my editor nervous.

So now, a couple of years later, here I am. No full-time job, but a decent freelance gig. I suggest to my editor that we do something for Mental Health Awareness Month, which is, of course, this month. He puts me off, puts me off, puts me off, then says, “I think we should look at this for June.” I say,“It’s senseless for June. The point was that May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and it’s an issue for our target demographic” (roughly late teens to early 30s).

“Oops,” he says. “Sorry.”

Yeah. Me too. Because although I was kind of ambivalent about putting myself out there, I figured it might help someone. Maybe this will do the trick instead.

I’m in a new, smallish town, hoping to get a new job, not at all sure if I should even do the NAMI fundraising walk in case somebody sees me and I have to out myself as a nutjob. But you know what? I am. It is what it is. I’ve been this way since I was 13 years old, which is now several decades ago. All those years I have dealt with people who bitch about my “bad attitude,” or ask if I’m ever happy (fuck you, by the way, you snot-nosed punk who hasn’t lived ANY of what I have and are half my age), or say things like, upon being told I’m in the locked ward of a psych hospital, “Oh, she’s not depressed. I’ve heard her laughing,” or think that because I can show up for work most days, and get most of my stuff done most of the time, that I’m fine.

Do you people not understand that I’ve learned to fake it? I told someone once I was anxious about something and he walked away shaking his head and saying, “Wow. Candy gets nervous.” I can look and act perfectly placid and serene, but I should win an Oscar, an Emmy AND a Tony for that. You have no idea what’s going on in my head, heart and soul. You have no idea how hard it is most days just to sit up and put both feet on the floor, much less move and be and do. You have no idea what it’s like having the side effects of the drugs that are supposed to help you be worse than the disease. (That takes some doing, but one of them nearly caused my death from bone marrow failure, and the one I just started causes me balance and digestive problems.) You have no idea what it’s like to feel your moods switch on a dime. It used to be that I could be fine at 8 a.m. and suicidal by noon. These days, it takes minutes, not hours. The highs are higher, the lows are lower, the cycling’s more frequent, and you know what? It fucking sucks. Being a prisoner of your own brain sucks.

If I had actually told someone the thought that was on “infinite loop” in my head awhile back, I still wouldn’t be out of the ha-ha house. And I was 100 percent conscious of the fact that it was twisted and disordered and plain old batshit-crazy. But knowing that didn’t make the thought stop, or completely convince me that it would be a really bad idea to go through with it. And you couldn’t tell I was having it by the way I looked or acted.

I get told a lot I’m considered “high functioning” — you know, like all crazy people need to be wild-eyed homeless alcoholic freaks. My mental health has cost me every job I’ve ever had, one way or another, but in most cases I’ve been able to move on and get them before they got me. I bathe on a regular basis and only a few pair of my socks and undies have holes. 😉 But because I’m not walking down the street glassy-eyed, pushing a shopping cart and jabbering to myself doesn’t mean there isn’t something going on sometimes. I wish more people understood that mentally ill people are your neighbors, or your teachers, or your favorite local business owner – or, hey, even your favorite journalist. I long for the day we don’t have to hide.

***

This just goes to show that no matter how much we try to make people aware, voices will still get stifled. Here Candy had a good story to write about in a month that is supposed to be about mental health awareness, and it gets rejected for this particular publication. So how the hell are we supposed to get the word out when editors are dumbasses? No wonder there is a stigma, if voices are constantly silenced.

I’m glad I’m doing my part, by providing an outlet, even if it is just on a little blog.

As one of my anonymous posters said, what are you gonna do?

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MH – Suicide *guest blogger*

Back in my drinking days, I had suicidal thoughts. I never came up with a plan or the means though. It was more like needing to escape the pain and not knowing how. Looking back, I’m so glad I never really considered taking it that far. I have since experienced having someone in my life attempt suicide, and the fall out has been pretty ugly. To me, suicide is no longer about the person who attempts it or succeeds, it’s about the family and friends afterwards. Suicide is the permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yes, temporary. Even if something is long lasting and forever, it can be coped with. The feelings of despair can be handled with the right therapy and/or meds. In my opinion anyway. Suicide can’t be undone. The emotional scars after an unsuccessful attempt can’t be undone. I feel for family and friends of those who have attempted it or succeeded. The following guest blog shows it from both sides. Being close to a successful suicide, and personally having the thoughts but luckily never an attempt. Carin shares her story with us now. (name used with permission)

***

Walking the Walk

For two years in a row, I have gone on “the walk” when it happens in
September. What is “The Walk”? Well, it’s a chance to raise awareness about
the prevalence of suicide in our community, and raise money for the local
crisis centre and line. But just walking “The Walk” was an experience that
made me think a lot.

Let’s start with the name. The website is thewalk.ca and the title that most
know it by is just “The Walk”. I’m happy that now, the website’s title says
“The Walk for Suicide Awareness and Prevention,” but I always thought it
funny that the very walk whose aim was to bring suicide out of darkness and
stigma didn’t have suicide in its name. I’m glad it does now.

A friend encouraged me to go with him. I didn’t do it the first year I heard
about it because it was from dusk until dawn, and I don’t like pulling
all-nighters anymore, mainly because they seem to effect me physically quite
a lot now. So I was happy to hear the event was in the evening when I went.
His mom drove us to the starting point. In all seriousness, she asked us
“And what are you going to say if someone asks you why you’re walking in
this?” This sounded like the way you rehearse with small children when they
first start staying at home alone. “And what are you going to say if we’re
not home and a stranger comes knocking? What is the correct answer?” I don’t
think she was expecting my response. “The truth,” I said. “If they want to
ask me the question, they had better be prepared for the answer.” She didn’t
say anymore on the subject, but I continued to boil with rage in the back
seat. This same woman had lost her family doctor to suicide, but she still
seemed to look at us shamefully that we were participating in the suicide
prevention walk, like we were weird for acknowledging that suicide was
something to face head-on.

We got out of the car, and heard the speeches, the statistics, the wishes
that people didn’t feel so desperate that they felt that taking their lives
was the only option, and the words of a woman who had tried to take her own
life, but had found the strength to come back. We went on the walk, and I
noticed how much of a crowd was there. I couldn’t help but wonder how
suicide had touched each and every one of us, and I was glad so many had
decided to be brave enough to come out.

We came back to the starting point, and the two of us debated how we were
going to get home. Something had happened on a stretch of sidewalk near our
places, and people needed to make a massive detour. A lady who I kind of
knew offered to give us a ride, so we took it. On our way home, she asked
the question. “So what brings you out to walk?” I thought about it for a
while. What did bring me out to walk? I could have said that I used to
volunteer at the crisis line, so wanted to support them, but that wasn’t
even close to the whole truth. I could have said that I knew people who
struggled with depression, and was thinking of them. That was more the
truth, but not even close to the whole thing. I ended up saying that I was
there because suicide had touched close to home a few times, so this was my
way of thinking of the ones I had lost. That was most of it, and what I
thought was all of it at the time. But there was a bit that I couldn’t even
admit to myself.

Years ago, there was a time when I thought about taking my own life. I look
at that sentence and shake my head now, but it’s true. I had gotten beyond
the idle thoughts phase, and had reached the point of planning a time and
contemplating a method. Thank god I never got any further, but yes, there
was a time when I, a volunteer who used to be on a suicide-prevention line,
had thought about suicide. Isn’t that a kicker?

Strangely enough, it was the memory of how it felt to lose a friend to
suicide that gave me the good hard kick in the rear away from that dangerous
place. I’d always heard that it was the ones that didn’t give you very many
warning signs that were the ones that you had to worry about. How true, how
true it was. I will never forget the weekend when I found out he had ended
his life. He was my room-mate’s brother. his dad called here in a panic
asking where my room-mate was. I really didn’t have a clue, but told him I’d
get him to call as soon as he got in the door…which I literally did. I
don’t think my room-mate was expecting me to come running out to the door
and tell him to call home right away. His dad would not talk to him about
why he had to come home, just told him to get in a cab and take that cab
home the 150-ish mile journey. I would find out days later that his brother
was gone.

I’ll still never forget one of the calls I made to my room-mate’s family’s
house. His dad quietly said to me “You don’t have to answer people’s
questions or tolerate what they have to say.” I was perplexed, but said ok.
I would learn exactly what he meant over the course of the next few days.
People were becoming forensic science experts, figuring out how this could
have been an accident or a murder. Nobody wanted to accept that he had
chosen to end his life. That was too painful a reality. His death could be
dealt with if they saw it as a tragic accident.

There was so much anger and guilt, some of which can probably never be
erased, especially for his poor parents. It was all those memories that made
me realize that if I decided to leave this world, what everyone around me
would be left to deal with would be beyond horrible, and would last longer
than anything I was dealing with right now.

Once I could step back and stop thinking about how and when to die, I could
start doing things that gave me the feeling I had control over my life, and
I had stuff to live for. I feel silly saying that now, but that was how I
felt at the time.

So when I said I was walking for suicide prevention and awareness because
suicide had touched close to home, I guess I was telling the whole truth. It
was just a different truth than most will realize.

***

Thank you for sharing your story with us. Maybe some day someone will read this who’s thinking about ending it, and they’ll realize they don’t have to.

There is help. Suicide is NOT the solution.

Need help now? Don’t know where to look? Here is a site full of information worldwide.

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Filed under awareness month, guest blogger, mental health

MH – Auditory hallucinations *guest blogger*

You’ve all seen them on tv, usually in a drama show or movie, the people who hear voices. They are usually portrayed walking down the stret, maybe pushing a shopping cart full of their worldly possessions and frightening a pretty lady as she has to pass. No wonder there is a stigma surrounding auditory hallucinations. I admit, I never knew much about “hearing voices” and thought the people who did must have schizophrenia or something. The following guest post explains what it’s like. It was sent to me anonymously, and I certainly don’t imagine this person walking down the road with a shopping cart.

***

About 3% of the world’s population hears some form of auditory hallucination. I am one of those people. About 30% of those people never seek treatment and may have voices or other sounds that are positive, pleasant or non-distressing. I am not one of those. For those like me, the voices, noises or sounds are distressing and intruding, making daily life difficult to carry out.

Currently unless someone had told you previously this about me there is very little chance you would know unless you were either in a car with me and picked up on the fact that I glance in the mirrors more than normal trying to be sure that the police or ambulance sirens I hear are just a figment of my mind or you saw me washing dishes at my kitchen sink and wondered why I kept looking over into my living room where I keep the telephone staring at it watching for the flashing light that tells me when it is really going off. Even when I am off of medication there is still a very big chance that you would never know what I hear since my form of hallucinations are mostly internal and I am very good at appearing on the outside as if nothing is wrong internally. For me it is not as if someone outside were talking to me, instead it is various voices that I hear inside my head or music playing or a cacophony of sound.

My voices began when I was about 11 years old and tormented me untreated for the next 8 years. I was a kid that generally kept to myself and I already had a previous phobia of anyone in the medical profession. Top that off with my parents one time when I was about 10 in a misguided attempt to keep their children on the straight and narrow, one morning after church sat my siblings and I down at the dining room table and told us that those with mental health problems had them because they hated their families and were awful people and you have a recipe for a kid that stops talking to anyone about what is really going on with them. I didn’t hate anyone, least of all my family and I just assumed I must be an awful person so I never told anyone as I was sure I was going to get into big trouble if someone found out. It wasn’t until I got into therapy after college that I started to get the help I needed and eventually was medicated and started to breathe a lot easier every day.

Until the right medication was found for me, that took over 2 years of trial and error to find and I consider myself very, very lucky that one works without horrible side effects or making me feel drugged and out of it constantly, I felt that I was constantly in a state of running. That if I just could get far enough away, fast enough I could leave the voices behind. Something would stress me out and make the voices worse for a time and I would have to start moving. I would walk and walk for hours and hours trying to wear myself out so they would stop. It never worked. I would drive in my car up to my second cousin’s home for a weekend or a few days and just hike in the mountains by her house. Again trying to exhaust myself, push myself so I could turn it off and make it stop. It never worked. I was panicked, terrified that I was going insane. I couldn’t understand why this was happening, I was constantly trying to pick through my life trying to find out what I did to cause this to happen to me. It took years in therapy before I could even come close to grasping that things like this need no reason, it isn’t my fault, there was no one event that I did, no wrong step I took that caused this, that it just is a part of my life.

Even on medication I will have break through periods. Periods where the voices get bad. The sirens and the telephone never really go away even with medication. There are also times when I’ll be doing really well and come off medication with my doctor’s approval. Mostly this is because I have a body that has time and time again decided after a few years that it doesn’t like the meds I am on and they will stop working or I will get sick with side effects. So because there is only 1 antipsychotic that is currently on the market that has even been even remotely effective for me, my doctor and I both agree that it is best to give me periods off the med in an attempt to keep it effective for as long as possible. I can generally go about 10 months without it before the symptoms return to an intolerable level.

When I am having a period where the voices are active, my functioning level decreases dramatically. When I was younger I use to be able to “fake it” quite well for long periods of time. Unfortunately doing this day after day, year after year, had some very negative effects. I would get to the point where I would “give in” to what the voices wanted and that was never a good thing and was very dangerous to me. I was never harmful to others, just myself. Now when things aren’t going well I will have to cut back on my outside activities dramatically and even then some days getting basic life needs taken cared for is impossible. I need a lot of help from my family and friends who are willing. There are times when hospitalization is necessary and generally I end up with more doctor and therapy appointments when my voices are acting up.

This illness also impacts my life in that if I get over stressed generally the voices will break through. So I am unable currently to work a full time job, or really even a proper part time job. I am dependent on government assistance financially as well as help from my family to survive in today’s world. I try to be as independent as I can and do as much as I am able, but some days that is very little compared to what most people my age are expected to accomplish. Unless things change dramatically in the coming years, there is little chance I will ever be able to work full time or be in high stress demanding environments for prolonged periods of time.

There are very few people who know that I live with this and even fewer who if they did know would be able to understand and accept it. There is a negative stigma clouding nearly every outside person’s view of what it is like to live with auditory hallucinations. It frightens people. And it makes them defensive. They shut you out and see you as less of a person. They stop looking at you like an equal and more as some kind of freakish anomaly who will one day snap and go on some form of rampage. When really the likelihood of that ever happening, at least with me, is zero. It leaves the person living with this ostracized and alone, when many times really what they need is just someone who cares and recognized that they too are scared out of their minds at what is going on beyond their control. People don’t understand how much I wish I could control this, how much I wish I could make it stop and go away, how much I hate to be med dependent and acknowledge that I will be med dependent for the remainder of my life. How scared I am at the thought of “What will I do when this med quits and there are no new ones that work for me?” as I know someday that is probably going to be a fact I am going to have to face and deal with. People don’t understand how much their comments hurt about how they wish I could just do a certain thing for myself that day or how they wish they too “Had all the free time you do” because I don’t work a regular job. People don’t understand how much I want to crawl under a rock and never come out when they tell me how tired they are of “Cutting you slack all of the time.” Certain things are beyond one’s control. I am a person who hears voices. I can’t change that. I live with it, I work around it, I manage it, I do the best I can. Same as anyone else. You can’t expect me to be someone I’m not or do any different.

I wanted to write this post for Mental Health Awareness month on this blog because I think it’s important to tell people what it’s like for at least one person who hears auditory hallucinations. There are many of us out there, most of us speaking up only behind the closed door of our therapist’s office. That is not helping the stigma. The barriers need to come down. And this is one way I can start to do that. What are you going to do?

***

Thank you for sending this to me. You have really shed some light on what it is to have auditory hallucinations, and at least this one tiny corner of the net will see your story. Maybe they’ll tell others. Maybe if they hear someone making fun of another who hears voices, they’ll speak up and say, no, don’t talk about them like that, I read this post once…

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Filed under awareness month, guest blogger, mental health

Autism service dogs – *Guest Blogger*

When I set out to do this series, I knew I wanted to talk about service dogs for autism. But where to look? Do you ever feel like picking up a book, but you don’t want to take a chance on something new, so you go to your favorite and read it again? That’s kind of how I felt about how to post about this. So, I asked a fellow blogger, one who has first hand experience in not only handling a service dog, but training the dog as well, to write a post about her experiences. This is a woman I have come to know through Blogger and she’s the reason I wanted to know more about autism. She’s pretty incredible, in my opinion, and I really appreciate her writing this! So without further adieu, here’s Katrin!

***

I am an autistic adult partnered with a service dog since 2003. In an effort to cover this topic in her monthly posts on autism, Ro asked me if I would guest post for her and I willingly agreed. I regularly write on my own blog By My Side http://asdbymyside.blogspot.com about my adventures with James (my service dog), Niche and Monty (my 2 pet dogs).

First I guess a little background, I have been training dogs since 1996, with that lifestyle as my profession since 2003. Mostly I train people to teach their dogs in agility, obedience, basic manners, behavior modification for agression problems and service work. I was diagnosed with autism when I was 19, at which point James was about 10 months old. I began formally training him as my assistance dog at that time and he graduated to full fledge service work in August 2003. Since then James and I have been partners and he is an invaluable companion to me. On May 1st of this year James will be 8 years old, and so I have begun the search for a new puppy to fill his rather large shoes when it comes time for James to retire. In this post I will talk about the various things James does for me.

One thing I would like to mention is just as any other service or guide dog, service dogs for those with autism must be task trained to mitigate the person’s disability. The Department of Justice has ruled on many occasions that dogs solely for emotional support, well being or companionship are not service dogs. So just like any other task trained service dog, James has behaviors he has been formally taught to perform for me that make it easier for me to live independently and go about my daily life. With James’ assistance I am able to live on my own and do every day things that other people take for granted such as going grocery shopping, going to various appointments, going to work, etc.

The most easily recognizable task James does for me in public is guide work. Just like a guide dog for a visually impaired person, James leads me around obstacles, stops at curbs, indicates stairs, is trained in intelligent disobedience at streets and all of the various behaviors that are wrapped into the term “guide work.” The reason I need this type of task in a service dog is due to a Sensory Processing Disorder that comes in parcle with my autism diagnosis. My two most affected senses are my vision and hearing with some tactile. I also have problems with my proprioception and ability to properly tell where my body parts are in space. This means that I will walk into things or not properly judge how far away say a moving car is from me and put myself in potentially dangerous situations.

Also because of my sensory processing disorder, I have a tendency to get overstimulated at a much faster rate than most neurotypical people. When this happens my system goes into a type of shut down mode and stops accurately processing data. This leads to my getting disoriented and lost even in familiar places. So another thing I have taught James to do is find specific places we frequent often as well as our home and the last car we were in. James knows the names of about 12 local shops or businesses and the various routes on how to get there. He also has a very good memory and will tell me by turning his head in at the entrance if we are about to pass a place we have been to before and ask “Do you want to go here today?”

The sensory shut down mode is what prompted me to teach James a “follow” cue for following a person indicated until asked to stop. This way if we are in a very overstimulating environment such as Wal-Mart, I can tell James to “follow” a person in our party or a store employee and not spend all of my energy trying to stay focused on where I am in the environment and instead can spend energy on getting my shopping done and picking out the right items. I will also use this “follow” cue when we are in a new location that I don’t have the energy to learn right then such as traveling in a new part of a city or a large office building or doctor’s office so that I can save resources to use when I get to my destination and be more lucid then.

James has also been taught to find certain people that I spend a lot of time with by name, such as my parents, sisters and a few good friends. This is an important cue for me as if I am out with one of those people and get separated from them I get very anxious which causes me to process my environment in a less than satisfactory manner and I am then unable to find the person. So with James knowing some tracking skills and having the ability to search out those people, I am able to not stress about it as much and can get back in touch with them.

One thing that is very common to many autistic people, myself included is finding that heavy deep pressure is relaxing. I have a very difficult time relaxing in general, my nervous system is always on alert so anything that chills my system out and is not harmful is a good thing. All of my dogs in my life have been benifitial in this area as they become mini weighted blankets. James, for example, will drap his entire retriever sized 55# of body across my body if I am laying down on the couch which I find relaxing. Or at night on the bed, he will lay across my lower legs and feet, again which helps me relax.

Another task that my corgi, Monty, has been taught is to alert me to various alarms in the house such as the oven timer. The reason James was not taught this is that 1. Monty needed a job as he’s an active little dog and 2. By the time I got around to teaching it James was getting older and he told me he didn’t really care about the timers so he’d rather not. I couldn’t force him to do something he didn’t want to do and so I respected that and Monty was an apt pupil thence Monty learned that task for me. Again my needing this task goes back to my sensory processing disorder, the auditory part, and the fact that many times I tune out important noises and literally do not hear them go off until the food is now charcole in the oven.

As you can see from the tasks described above many are the same or similar to tasks that other types of working assistance dogs do for their handlers with other disabilities. Autism service dogs are fairly new as a group, but that doesn’t change what things they can do for their handlers. The reasons for an autistic handler’s needs may be different but dogs can still be trained to assist in a myriad of ways. I know for myself, having James and trusting his skills enables me to do a wide variety of things that previously I was not able to do on my own and that type of independence is something I thoroughly enjoy.

***

Thank you so much for your insight’s Katrin, and for letting us get a glimpse into your life with James!

For more information, and to read about how Monty was trained with timers, be sure to visit Katrin’s blog. She also has links to the type of breed that James is, a flatcoat. Katrin’s blog is one I always read and I get excited when she posts, so I’m so happy she agreed to be my first ever guest blogger!

I hope this helps you get a sense of what it’s like living with autism. I know for me, reading personal stories about any disability is so much more informative than clinical articles. We’re a little over half way through the month, and I have really enjoyed learning more about autism, and I hope you have too. Stay tuned; more to come.

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Filed under Autism, awareness month, guest blogger, plugs, working dog