Mopping Up Mental Health

I went to the clinic on Friday.  Quite cheerful I was when I arrived there and ready to get things DID. I shuffled past the HIV and AIDS Section.  The Reproductive Health Section with many blushing teenagers and finally turned the corner at the clinic to head to the mental health “corner”.  I paused briefly to think that the signage is intended to be functional, it screamingly communicates and impacts on the people waiting so much more.  What would you say if a friend passes you by in the HIV queue?  Hi, I’m here for a fun check? Blushes and shuffles feet? Anyways, almost fittingly,  the mental health section is in the most inconvenient area that is too small to seat the large number of people who require a service on mental health Friday’s. Yes.  On Fridays, when the psychiatrist graces the mentally ill with his or her presence and the nurse (no mental health specialisation) who are at their most tired, open the clinic to the mad, crazy and otherwise, on condition that you are prepared to queue from 4 in the morning outside.

As I lodged myself into the long queue, with an approximate waiting time of two hours for two people (not exaggerating), we all waited anxiously, knowing that although you were at a health centre, and could have braved massive odds to get there, there was no guarantee that you would actually receive the service you required regardless of  how serious your ailment is or what you’d come for.  In my hard-won um, experience, I have learnt that the South African Health System is more adept at turning people away than it is at servicing people who need it the most.  As an example, I had a close friend with mental illness tell me that when they were suicidal and reported to a hospital, they were told to come back when they had more serious symptoms.  I’m sorry did I miss something here?  A symptom of suicide?  Well.

I had come for a meds refill.  Not that hard.  I had a script, a detailed psychiatric history and referral letter from my resident psychiatrist.  So you could say I was capacitated to come and that the paper could speak for me because you know, someone with mental health anything is NOT able to do that.  Like we may have years of experience of living and coping with our disorders, but cannot describe our symptoms unless a psychiatrist decodes the language we apparently speak. center  Symptom of suicide indeed.

I no longer know what it will take to draw attention to the needs of the mentally ill in our families and communities in Africa because I have it unfortunately on great authority that we are fully and fundamentally being failed. We should not be turned away,  or have it suggested that we actively go home and allow our mental health to deteriorate. Because we matter.  Our families matter.  Our communities matter. And research/statistics in our country and the world says that mental health issues are undetected, and ravaging communities.  So perhaps, mental health services need to be primed to helping people not making them sicker?  In the meantime, whilst I mull this over, I am going to take that cleaner’s bucket which became so intimately acquainted with the tender flesh on my knees during the time I should not have waited, and I’m going to mop clean at the local clinic.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t.  I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

Become a Patron!https://c6.patreon.com/becomePatronButton.bundle.js

To Be(er), Or Not To Be(er)

“Please Drink Responsibly” is the phrase slapped across every product you must be twenty-one years of age to purchase in the United States. Alcohol has been, is, and always will be one of the most controversial matters in history for many reasons. Our grandfathers’ fathers made it hidden in the south eastern mountains to provide for their families in the most lucrative way they could. A tradition has been made out of its’ recipes and stories of bootlegging and prohibition. It’s the one thing that even the United States government couldn’t stop.

As with anything however, where there are pros, there are cons. As with anything, if enjoyed in excess there are many debilitating effects it can cause on your health and the health of others. Poor judgements and decisions are made which can impact many people for the rest of their lives. If you live just below the Bible belt as I do, don’t be surprised if some mega church preacher attempts to release you from the grasp of the Devils’ nectar as he lovingly embraces you while reaching for your wallet and groping every square inch of your wife with his eyes.

The point I am trying to make is that we live in a society that welcomes the use of alcohol like an old family friend. It’s as American as apple pie, baseball, McDonald’s, and this messed up obsession we all have over reality television. So if no one else seems to have a problem, and it all just is a natural part of life, do I really have as big of a problem as I think I do?

If you have followed me or my blog for any amount of time, you may have stumbled across my introduction or several works about alcohol and my battle with the bottle. Today I want to give you a little background about it, as the subject weighs heavily on my mind lately. I have been drinking since I was fourteen years old. It started out as simply as it typically would. Tall bottles of Smirnoff Ice which eventually led my curious tongue to tall cans of malt liquor. I drank A LOT of gut rot, gas station specials as an early teenager such as Steel Reserve 211 and the likes, until I finally calmed down into normal domestic beers.

At around the age of eighteen I began to indulge in liquor. Trying a little bit of anything I could get my hands on, I quickly discovered that vodka and gin were two of my least favorite liquors. As stereotypical as it will sound, I was a bourbon guy through and through just like my father. The smoky taste, the warm burn of eighty proof tingling down your throat, and that decadent smell of oak as it swirled around in my glass could make my mouth water with every sip. I had made it my mission to become a connoisseur of bottom shelf bourbon. Even when I moved out on my own, the only things I had to my name were a few pots and pans, a record player, a futon mattress, and most importantly… a bottle of rye whisky.

It wasn’t until last year in September that a panic attack made me really look at myself and question my life. Once I began my journey for better mental health, I realized I was using the alcohol to self medicate my anxieties and possibly even some of my bipolar tendencies when I look back in retrospect. I made a lot of changes to my lifestyle with help from my wife. I decided to not keep beer in the apartment we share and she agrees because she feels it’s a waste of money. We agree to only drink when we go to restaurants or concerts and I stopped buying liquor all together because if it’s in my reach, I will drink it.

It’s not uncommon for me to become my own worst enemy. I am my worst critic, my worst judge of character, and the last person I ever want to have to confront. Lately if I’m out somewhere and decide to have a beer, I look at myself in shame and feel regret over my decision. I feel as though I’m letting myself down and even you down. Even though I don’t drink for the same reason anymore, enjoying one beer throws so many questions into my mind, it almost makes me wonder if it’s worth it. On the other hand, I’m not drinking for the same reason anymore. I enjoy beer as a craft and a beverage. Taking barley and hops and creating a flavorful masterpiece is a skill I am honestly envious of. There are so many good things about beer that go far beyond alcohol content.

Everyone has a story. Everyone has a situation that is different. I am not writing this to sway someone who is struggling with addiction to drink. If you are someone who is on the fence, I encourage you to please take the plunge and reach out to your local alcoholics anonymous program or outpatient rehabilitation center. What I am writing this for is to tell my story and to pose a question to my friends, the readers.

With the habits I continue to follow, I find myself wondering if I really have as big of a problem as I think I do. Am I more in control than I realize? Am I blowing this entirely out of proportion? If no one else seems to have an issue, then what is my problem? I am fine with not buying liquor, but am I wrong if I buy beer from time to time? What are your thoughts, and do you struggle this as well?

What I Learned in Six Months of Blogging

So I was asked a lot lately how I got here. Over 50,000 views about 3900 followers and I always go back to this post that was originally posted January 5th of this year. So I wanted to update a little bit and reshare some of the things that have made by blog semi-successful.

What I have Learned Blogging

Its been over six months since The Bipolar Writer went live. I have learned so much and I wanted to impart some of my wisdom. I am by no means an expert in blogging, but I have done a lot six months. I have reached the end of the year goal of 2,000 followers towards the end of December, and its been climbing ever since. I am at a little over 3900 followers at the beginning of March. My blog is one that is a shared experience, how to guide, and things I think are relative to my blog’s theme of writing to end the stigma surrounding mental health and to end the idea that suicide is an answer.

It has also been a great place to share the stories of others. You can find my collection of interview features in the following page.

Interview Features – The Series

I have been asked a few times by email what has worked for my blog, and I usually just reply to the email. I thought it would be good to write about it in a blog post.

So I thought why not share my experience in blogging over the past few months. Maybe there is something that you will learn that will be helpful on your own blog.

1. I have learned first and foremost to be myself. I write each blog post about my experiences by letting the reader into my life. I write about my experiences surrounding my diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder. I am sharing my triumphs and losses. Always be honest and people will keep coming back to your blog.

ben-kolde-403278.jpg

2. Getting an actual domain name is very helpful. I have gotten many followers because I have a domain name. If you are serious about blogging then you can find the $99 price tag for a domain name and the premium themes that come with it. It was the best thing I did.

3. Use free photo sites like unsplash.com to add color to your post. In my opinion, adding photos will help your post feel more like a home to the reader. Also, it’s important to note to always give credit for the photos you use. The website I talked about gives you all you need to do just that in your blog post.

4. You can add Grammarly to your web browser so that you edit your post on WordPress. It’s a great free tool to have because even when you think you have edited at your best, you can still miss things. You can go with their premium service but it’s not necessary.

5. In my experience, the Hemingway App is a great tool for writing blog posts. It’s not the greatest of proofreading tools but it tells you when you are using passive voice which is important to writing good quality posts. It also allows you to post straight from the app to WordPress. I paid the $19.99 price tag because it’s a useful tool. I never used the actual free version (if there is one I don’t remember.)

6. As a writer, I like to have as many tools at my disposal when writing. One app that has been amazing for me when I want to free write a blog post is Ulysses. For me when I just need to write its the best place. It also connects to your iCloud so what you have on this app is functional on your computer, your phone, and iPad. It’s my best functional app. I can write a post on my phone and it will automatically be on my computer. It’s great for taking notes when you are out and have an idea.

andrew-neel-308138.jpg

7. Try your best to answer all comments. Its the connection to your readers that will get them to come back to your blog. The stronger the connection the more they will feel at home on your blog.

8. This also goes the other way. You should take time to read the blogs of others. I admit I don’t do this as much I would like, but the better connections you make, the more people will come back to your blog. I admit lately I got sidetracked by how much I have going on in my life but it means the world to connect with other bloggers and make a real connection.

9. Make your blog post and blog reader friendly. My first two attempts at writing a blog my posts felt too much like WebMD. It was too technical and not really my goal. Share your experience your way. That is all that matters.

10. Set aside time to go to the Reader in WordPress and find blogs that you find interesting. Follow them. Leave a comment. Become a part of the what ever community you are blogging about. When you become a part of something your blog has purpose.

11. One thing that has helped my blog personally is to add contributor writers that way the content here on The Bipolar Writer stays fresh. It might be something to look at or you can have guest writers/

This is all I could come up with in my own experiences. Always be yourself and your fellow bloggers will come to love your blog. It takes time and dedication, but I know you can do it!

courtney-hedger-336844.jpg

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logorawpixel.com

unsplash-logoBen Kolde

unsplash-logoAndrew Neel

unsplash-logoCourtney Hedger

Are There Different Levels of Depression?

Are There Different Levels of Depression?

It’s a very interesting and intriguing question. Depression is such a hard thing to define by itself because there really are different types and varying degrees of how bad and how long depression can last.

Depression is one part of the equation that is Bipolar One disorder. It can be hard to define the different levels of depression within my own mental illness. The important question posed by a fellow blogger for this post was this. Is there was a difference between Bipolar depression and a diagnosis of severe depression? Basically are there varying levels of depression. It’s an interesting concept to consider. If someone has severe depression and then has a single mania episode it can change their diagnosis.

For my own work here on The Bipolar Writer, and in my memoir, I write from experience. I thought it was the perfect time to define the varying levels of depression associated with the Bipolar disorder. At the same time, it would be good to look at different depression diagnosis and the levels that each come with, at least the ones I have had in my own life. Depression can be so different for each person in the mental illness community so what you read hear is tailored the experience of one, The Bipolar Writer.

*DISCLAIMER* I am not a mental health expert. I talk from the position of experience only.

What are the Different Types of Depression?

It might be surprising that there are in fact many types of depression diagnosed by mental health professionals. Here is what I have found online. I can’t define what I have not lived through, but I will define the differences in what I do know. My blog posts always come from the position of experience. I will list first the most common according to my online research.

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder
  • Bipolar Depression
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder
  • Atypical Depression

Is There is Difference?

The short answer is most definitely YES, there are differences between the types of depression. I can only explain the differences from my own experience. I would love for people within the blogger community that suffer from any of these (or those not listed) to help define the types of depression which I have not experienced.

My diagnosis has changed over the years. The changes came from more information given by me, at different times in my life. In my very early twenties, my diagnosis was Major Depressive Disorder.This was around 2006 to October 2007. From what I remember this means your depressed most of the time during a week. This diagnosis is usually given when the depression lasts longer than two weeks.

The subset of MDD is Persistent Depressive Disorder. This usually comes when a diagnosis of depression is longer than two years. It was never my diagnosis, though I have had “depression cycles” that have lasted more than two years. By then I was Bipolar. My depression “levels” when I was diagnosed with MDD were manageable with medication. They never hit the extreme levels that Bipolar Depression does (at least in my experience) until they finally did. It eventually became a diagnosis of Bipolar One.

Bipolar Depression is always at the “extreme” levels. The highs and lows are always a swinging pendulum of extreme depression and mania. In my personal experience, I became “Bipolar” because of my crazy mood swings into depression was very extreme. I was constantly suicidal and always on edge. I started to self-harm, but it was the fact that I had manic episodes that changed my diagnosis.

*I wanted to make a small note that after my first suicide attempt, and because I was experiencing psychosis in the ER, my original diagnosis for about a week was the schizoaffective disorder.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is another type of depression that I have experienced. In fact, my official diagnosis as of today is Bipolar One Disorder with psychosis and a seasonal element. For me, my SAD is specific to the months of November to about March. This year has been the first year that it ended in January for me, which is through perseverance and a lot of writing. Some people only experience SAD because of a specific time of year. It’s an interesting thing to say during this months my depression gets bad considering some of my depression cycles have lasted for years.

ali-inay-2273.jpg

But, I can see major shifts in my depression during my SAD months. That is the difference in my Bipolar Depression and my SAD. These months are always the worst for me. Even with the extreme lows, I feel with my Bipolar Depression it can get more extreme for me during my “worst months.” I can tell the difference because of my experiences.

I have explained the differences in the types of depression that I have experienced over the years. The rest of the list isn’t my area of expertise. Each type of depression has their elements in why medical experts separate the types from one another.

For those that follow my blog and have experience in the other types of depression. It would be nice to explore them further through your own experiences.

My Final Thoughts on Differing Levels of Depression

This blog post started out with the question from a fellow blogger. Is there was a difference between Bipolar depression and a diagnosis of severe depression? There are differences between the types of depression and their levels. It is impossible in my mind to say that one type has a more serious level. Depression is bad on any level. The differences seem to be in the extremeness and the length.

With that said, all depression can be treatable. I always like to leave a post such as this one piece of what I think is good advice, always seek help. Depression can be a dangerous thing. I have talked so many times about my experiences of depression leading to suicide. It happened three times in my life. It is important because depression can get worse over time if left untreated. But, with the right help, you can fight it. I have in my own life when I thought it an impossible task.

As always. Always Keep Fighting.

pete-pedroza-534409.jpg

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:
unsplash-logoTom Pumford

unsplash-logoAli Inay

unsplash-logoPete Pedroza

Freelance Work

I don’t often talk about the writing side but when I do it’s a big thing.

Going to school is not cheap. Neither is everything else that comes with the writing life. As I move closer to completing the first draft of The Bipolar Writer Memoir, I am thinking about the possibility of self-publishing. I have done my research and I know the costs of such a venture.

That leads me to look for freelancing work wherever I can in this world. I have already started to pick up local work. I am on Upwork. I put ad‘s on craigslist with some good and bad experiences. I thought something today. I have a blog. Why not reach out to those that need help here on my blog—for a price. That is what freelance work is, moving from project to project.

So what am I offering?

I can help with creating a blog from the start. My blog is my own it took me while to make everything right the way I like it. The content is all mine. I have experience in growing my brand without much help. It’s been a learning procsss for me, but hey I have skills. If you want to pay me to help you create a new blog site, I am here.

I can help write original content for you blog under any peramiters. I have already done a couple of these types of jobs and I create my own content on blog daily. I can research like there is no tomorrow for those of you that need that for your content I’m your guy. If you need someone to edit and proofread your blog posts before you go live, I can help.

Then there is the proofreading editing part of my freelance skills. I am an English major nearing the end of my Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. I minored in journalism, screenwriting, and political science. I have experience in proofreading and editing. The classes I have left are math classes and science classes. I have finished every writing class under my degree. I can help with ghostwriting or copy editing.

I do offer tutoring, but that is probably best for local work. One of my skills is researching. I am damn good at it. So if you need that, I can help.

I am not the kind of guy who charges is a lot. I am competitive with each project. I am online with PayPal so that is always a good thing.

I have a lot of things coming up this summer that I am going to need money for mosty trips. My graduation. My brothers wedding in Oregon. My annual pilgramage to Las Vegas. I would love to finally see Italy and South Korea. I have a good friend of mine in Germany. There is of course the whole student loans thing. It would be nice to pay off my interest before I start my Master’s program at the end of this summer.

I have things in play. My screenplay for one. But I need to be able to save every penny. If that means helping out people then I will do what ever it takes. I am not sure if this is even the right place to put a post such as this, but hey its my blog.

The costs of self-publishing my memoir will be high no matter how I look at it. I don’t need extra work in my life but I have to be open to all opporinites that come my way.

So if you need any type of freelance writing work, I am your blogger— or writer —James Edgar Skye.

So if your interested in any of my freelance skills email me. Let’s talk.

Contact me @ jamesedgarskye24@gmail.com

James Edgar Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoStanley Dai

Are Antipsychotic Drugs Safe?

Today’s topic is an interesting one to write about, are antipsychotic drugs safe?

I am by no means an expert in the field of medicine and what works for a mental illness. Instead I write from exeprience.

I have been taking antipsychotics since day one of my diagnosis of Bipolar disorder. My antipsychotic of choice is Quetiapine (known by its brand name of Seroquel.) In my own life, it is the most important drug that I take besides Ativan. I have taken Seroquel every day for the last ten plus years.

Seroquel became a part of my daily cocktail of medications because I was hearing voices. It was during my first suicide attempt when I was first brought to the hospital and entered the psych ward. Over time, my psychiatrist put me on the strongest dosage allowed. I have been up and down with the dosage ever since.

It is this one medication that I can’t live without, but the side effects are often something that I have “to deal with.”

That is where I want to go first. One of the things that I regret in the beginning when first receiving my diagnosis is that I didn’t ask questions about anything. I did what the doctors told me and took any medicine that they gave me. I did some research in later years but by then medication was a part of my life.

hush-naidoo-382152.jpg

I didn’t care enough about myself at the time to understand taking antipsychotics would mean having to live with side effects.

Here are some of what I deal with daily when taking Seroquel.

The simple ones are dry mouth. I have to combat that with lithium as well so I drink lots of water throughout the day. I also chew gum. I often go through a pack in three or four days (sugar-free of course) and gum also helps with anxiety.

When I have already taken my dosage, it can sometimes leave me dizzy when trying to get up to walk around late at night. Even at a high dose, it can take me up to three hours to get any real sleep.

The one I struggle with the most is when waking in the morning. Seroquel is a powerful antipsychotic. I use for sleep beyond keeping my psychosis in check. But in the morning it sucks. I wake usually at around six or seven in the morning, but I am not really awake. I can feel still partly asleep. It can take up to three hours before the Seroquel has left my system completely and I can get out of bed.

When have to force myself to get up and it takes a mountain of caffeine before I am myself again. Seroquel stays in my system longer the higher dosage that I am on. At the moment I am at 500-600mg most nights.

I wanted to dedicate the rest of this blog post talking about an important part of any new medication but antipsychotics in particular. It is paramount to always research especially when taking antipsychotics.

  1. It is important to know the risks of antipsychotics. You can achieve this through research on more than one source. Complete information on any medication you will need to make the right decisions.
  2. Don’t be afraid to tell you, doctors, you don’t want to take an antipsychotic. In the beginning, it would have been better to know that over time I would become more reliant on Seroquel. My first dosage was 50mg and it has done nothing but increase over the years.
  3. Also don’t be afraid of the side-effects. Antipsychotics have their uses and if you decide you need it but are afraid of what you learn, don’t be. Everyone is different. You can write down what is working and the side effects in a journal and discuss it with your mental health team.
  4. My last point is exploring alternatives to medication when it comes to antipsychotics. I was very anti-counseling when I was first diagnosed. I still don’t go to group therapy because it’s not for me. But for you, it could mean never taking a medication ever.

katherine-hanlon-242213.jpg

I am sometimes left wondering if everything I deal with today could have been different without medication.

I am by no means an expert. I always write my blogs through my own experiences. It is always good to listen to what your psychiatrist or doctor is telling you. They have the expertise that I don’t, at the same time the long-term effects might be something you don’t want.

I can’t imagine taking Seroquel because without it I may slip back into psychosis. What is even worse I may never sleep again without taking my Seroquel. it is the only medication that can put me to sleep anymore, and I have tried everything under the sun to sleep.

To answer the question if antipsychotics are safe, my answer isn’t so easy. Antipsychotics have their place and for the most part other than depending more on it, Seroquel has been good to me. It’s important that we work with the people on our mental health teams to find what works for you.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit:

unsplash-logoJonathan Perez

unsplash-logoHush Naidoo

unsplash-logoKatherine Hanlon