Posts Tagged ‘art’

Cool Shades of Blue

May 16, 2017

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The sun, a pale yellow disk in the sky, was going down. She thought of childhood. She thought of freedom. Memories thrust themselves upon her. She did not invite them in, they simply arrived, pale ghosts wandering through her head.

Her swim in the calm sea beneath a serene sky had been all too brief. She scooped up a handful of sand and let it trickle down her leg. She wanted to make this moment forever.

She tried not to think about where the car was taking her -back to the bin. She wanted to sit here, on the back seat, forever, reassured by the comforting rhythm if the motor, travelling into an infinite golden sunset.

A place in which night was banished and sky and sea merged and she immersed herself in their cool shades of blue.

The Chemical Lobotomy

April 23, 2017

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When I was first hospitalized as a teenager, I was, or so I was told, very ill. I was experiencing delusions I would rather not discuss in any detail here. Suffice to say I was only ever a danger to myself, never to others. As a result of this, I was forced to spend six months in the local psychiatric hospital. I was heavily medicated with the most primitive antipsychotic known to man: Chlorpromazine (aka Largactil in the UK, Thorazine in the US and the Chemical Kosh/lobotomy in both countries).

Chlorpromazine was the first of a new type of medication known as ‘neuroleptics’. They were introduced in the 1950s and were the only class of medication capable of combatting the positive symptoms of schizophrenia such as delusions and hallucinations. They did not, as far as I am aware, do much for the negative symptoms.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw a documentary entitled ‘Inside Strangeways’ on Channel Five, a terrestrial tv station I rarely watch. In 1985 an infamous riot broke out in the prison. One of its triggering factors was the use of Chlorpromazine to subdue its more troublesome prisoners. They would be forcibly medicated; held down and injected. It is a horrific experience; something I have never really got over. Even though I now see that it was a tragic necessity, I still find it hard to dwell upon. The sense of violation never really goes away.

Throughout my first stay in the hospital, I was on such a high dose of Chlorpromazine that my vision was permanently clouded over. I needed Procyclidine (an anti-Parkinsonian drug) to combat the side effects of the drug I was already taking. Those were the days when the hospital staff would wake you up to give you a sleeping pill then wake you up periodically throughout the night by shining a torch into your bed space. But they were doing the best they could with minimal resources. I know that now but for a long time I resented it. Time does heal some things.

All of this happened in the early ‘90s and thankfully, over the years, much has changed. Atypical antipsychotics such as Quetiapine and Abilify have been introduced. Therapy is no longer contraindicated. People are prepared to actually talk to you nowadays. Medication is no longer the only avenue of treatment.

At the moment I am taking Quetiapine and Abilify. I am told I should be reconciled to the fact that I may have to take this combination of medications for the rest of my life. This does not sit well with me. I worry about the impact these drugs may be having on my physical health. Quetiapine has been known to indirectly lead to diabetes or liver damage. And. if you google it, you will find a list of side effects a mile long. The less serious side effects include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, constipation. The most serious side effects include high fever, confusion and permanent cognitive impairment (something I am terrified of.)

So I stand at a crossroads. I am tempted to simply stop taking the medication altogether so that I can be me again. But those around me say it is beneficial and I should continue taking it. I shall probably compromise and aim for the best possible results on the lowest dose of medication. This, I think, is the most sensible approach.

Volcano

April 15, 2017

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Pale Morning

April 7, 2017

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She stands
On the parapet
Of the bridge
Staring down
At the sparkling blue
Of the water below

Her body slices
Through the stillness
Of the pale morning
At one with the air
Shimmering
And translucent

She descends,
Greeting the dawn
She is ethereal
She is a ghost
Who slips through the cracks
In your consciousness

She bids you farewell
She no longer needs you
She exists now
Only in dreams
And in fragments
Of memory

And in the stories
You whisper to your children
On long, dark winter nights

Twisted Sisters

April 5, 2017

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Borderland

March 29, 2017

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No feud is enough to keep me from you
I brave the barricades and the border guards
And you appear so near now. I journey
Through memories in dark and restless sleep
A bleak borderland, a stark, dry terrain
Where suicidal strangers meet.

We dwell within the ancient walls
Of a forgotten country, scorched and frozen,
By turns; haunted by a history of hatred
A decimated island on which matchstick
Children stand, tormented by the sun
And praying for death.

This is a vulnerable state, on the edge of hell
Sandwiched between two superpowers
Clinging to an impossible peace
And all around there are pillars of salt,
Crumbling statues of fleeing citizens
Who dared to look back.

The father says, ‘Son, take this gun’
And sends his progeny off to war
And he carves curses upon stone
Primitive and inglorious
Hit by one calamity after another
We are all crazy here.

Loneliness In Middle Age: Myself In The Third Person

March 26, 2017

Loneliness In Middle Age
By Louise Mils

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Loneliness is often portrayed as a condition of old age. Little attention has been paid to the kind of loneliness that afflicts the middle aged. However, recent research has shown that an increasing number of the middle aged are reporting feelings of isolation, despair and loneliness. Some say it is reaching epidemic levels. In spite of this, they are a group still relatively low down in the hierarchy of concern.

Contrary to popular opinion loneliness is not a trivial condition and its impact on our lives should not be underestimated. According to the British Medical Journal, ‘Loneliness and social isolation are risk factors for coronary heart disease and stroke’. It also puts us at greater risk of cognitive impairment or decline. It can be a threat to both physical and mental health. Many are reluctant to admit to loneliness so it tends to be a hidden problem which can make it all the more debilitating. Although loneliness is not, in itself, a mental illness, it can lead to disorders such as agoraphobia, anxiety and depression. Pre existing mental illnesses are also exacerbated by loneliness.

So what makes the middle aged peculiarly vulnerable to loneliness? Several contributory factors have been identified. Middle age is often the part of life in which people are forced to confront their own mortality for the first time. It is often an an age when people lose their parents.

Melanie Dunbar, a 43 year old sales advisor, says: ‘This was the year in which both of my parents decided to die. I was orphaned in my 40s. Another blow came when a friend of mine who was only seven years older than me passed away after a short battle with cancer and that’s when it hit me: I am no longer young. I am also unmarried and childless which intensifies my feelings of isolation.’

The loss of our contemporaries in middle age leads to a precarious sense of self and causes us to question our connection with the world. The sense that we are part of the cycle of life is disrupted. We realise there are no certainties, there are no guarantees. Youth takes much for granted, including life itself. The middle aged can no longer afford to do this. Experiencing loss at this time of life can also lead to fears about one’s own health. For the first time we see our contemporaries succumb to life changing illnesses. We realise our time is running out, that middle age is a prelude to old age. Youth is over.

We are all failures in some way, even the most ostensibly successful. There are always things we should have done but didn’t. The childless regret their state and those of us with children are facing a dramatic change in status as our offspring fly the nest. Empty nest syndrome afflicts women in particular.

We are running out of possibilities. We become more self critical. It can seem that there is no escape, that our lives are over, that there is nothing to look forward to. That this is all there is and all there will ever be. There is no possibility for change.

We become more self conscious, more acutely aware of the way in which those around us perceive us, especially the young. ‘When I was in my twenties  I barely noticed the existence of anyone over forty. Apart from my parents and they were frequently the objects of mockery,’ says Sarah Grossman, a 47 year old financial advisor.

Loneliness in middle age can hit some harder than others. It drove Pattie Gilbert, 49 and unemployed, to the brink of suicide. ’At the moment I am trapped in a vicious cycle. I am imprisoned in my flat, alone. I have lost all of my friends and lack the capacity to make new ones. I lead a relentlessly solitary life. I cannot go on like this but I don’t know how to break the cycle. I need help but I have no idea how to get it. I feel an overwhelming sense of fear. I feel like I have lost too much of myself, like I have forgotten how to live.’

‘It is as though I am mentally and emotionally paralysed. It is the future that terrifies me the most. Sometimes I feel that the only thing I have to look forward to is death. I wake up in the morning and want to go straight back to sleep again, my dreams being more colourful and interesting than my everyday life. They say life begins at forty. I am yet to be convinced.’

‘I think about suicide frequently. My death would be a relief, not just for me but for the people I am so parasitically dependent on – my family and my mother in particular. My death would set them free. Some say suicide is a selfish act. Right now, it seems like the opposite.’

It is at this point that many are tempted to turn to social media to fill the void in their lives. According to some it can only be a temporary fix. According to Dorothy Baker, a community psychiatric nurse, ‘When we switch off the commuter and unplug ourselves from the internet we are catapulted back into an unsatisfactory reality. There is no substitute for face to face contact.’

There is a temptation to withdraw from the world.  Dorothy urges us not to succumb to it. ‘It is all too easy to allow yourself to be sucked into a cycle of self pity. We need to recover the capacity to operate once again as fully functional human beings.’ There are many ways of achieving this goal. Often a little imagination and energy are all it takes to turn your life around. It is never too late to embark upon an exercise regime and maintain a healthy diet. Improvements in physical health can lead to improvements in mental health. Keeping a diary and reading are also immensely helpful. Hobbies and interests should be nurtured. Dorothy has some encouraging words: ‘Remember the best thing about growing old is that you do so in such wonderful company.’

Myself: A Case Study

March 20, 2017

IMG_0257Myself: A Case Study:

This will be the bleakest blog entry for a while and for that I apologise. The breadcrumbs have been devoured by the birds and there is no way back. I have to create a new future for myself.  This is a kind of SOS.

This is actually about me but I am writing about myself in the third person. What shall I call myself today: Susan perhaps.

My diagnosis was, until recently schizoaffective disorder but the powers that be have chosen to change it to ‘schizophrenia’. Schizophrenia is a cruel disease. It attacks every aspect of your being and even after a successful medication regime has been established there are problems that may seem unsurmountable but they must be faced up to and overcome. At the moment I am experiencing residual symptoms of my disorder: loneliness, social isolation, suicidal thoughts, panic and anxiety. However, my greatest enemy is poverty of expectation in myself and in others. I find myself longing to give into the temptation to curl up into a ball and lie there forever, to succumb to a dreamless sleep.

Right now I am terrified of the future. I have a tendency to catastrophise. I am finding the world almost impossible to navigate. I am nothing, I am passive, a mere observer. I am characterless, A tabla rasa. My self esteem has been ravaged. I feel socially disenfranchised, as if I have no place in the world. I am living on the edge of darkness, huddled down deep inside myself, wondering whether I will find myself again. “it is my portion to die out and disappear.”

I need to bear constantly in mind that there is a solution to every problem. Something as simple as making a list of problems and solutions can be immensely helpful as it helps to put them into some kind of perspective. I have got to this stage and the darkest hour is just before the dawn. I will not let this illness win. I must triumph over this nameless dread. A life lived in perennial fear is no life at all. Time propels you forward. There is no turning back.

https://www.livingwithschizophreniauk.org/

 

 

Flower Seller by Diego Rivera

March 14, 2017

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The Confessional

February 4, 2017

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The Confessional

She enters the confessional
‘Oh Father I have sinned’
The world beyond has dimmed
A separate dimension exists
In the oak-panelled box
A land where everything is forgiven
Sins obliterated, guilt banished

She tells the priest
Barely discernible, beyond the grille
An insubstantial shadow
Yet still comforting
‘Father it has been so long,
Half a life time
Since my last confession’

This lapsed Catholic has returned
To be wrapped in a cloak
Of warm patriarchy
To be clasped in the hand of God
The fat controller of the universe
Enveloped in the trinity
And rocked to sleep

She is fearful now. For it is time
To leave. She does not want to live
In the world beyond the confessional
She could stay in this dark place forever
A perpetual religious apprentice
With the priest beyond the grille, acting
As her direct line to God

‘Oh no, my dear,’ the priest replies
‘That is not our purpose. Our aim
Is to arm you with faith and courage
And then unleash you onto the world
And they and back and watch
And applaud and cheer
As they make a martyr of you.’

 


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