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How a Psychologist Helped Me with Schizoaffective Disorder

There was hope, at the start. I was clean-cut and in the midst of final exams, a time where psychologically there was much going on. I found the kind of thrill you get from attending university away from your home town, living separately from the family.

At the time I was newly diagnosed. It’s little wonder that the doctor’s report was so hard to comprehend. Certainly, it takes a lot to deal with the horror of being on medications while trying to operate as a well-functioning professional just a little while later. There is a certain circularity to the idea that mental illness is a personal flaw – is it nature or nurture? Bad luck, or a lack of life skills?

I didn’t meet a quota of overtime hours at work and was left out of the club. Some of my colleagues were sympathetic, but bereft of understanding. How could they accept an illness that is essentially the work of a brain undermining itself?

The menacing highway from home to the city is when the tweets become threatening, another sign injecting all manner of vital meaning. You can’t be helped. Schizoaffective disorder is a serious mental illness.

The black hole became all-encompassing for several months – in fact for more than two years I lived in isolation and avoidance. The breakthrough moment was when my psychologist taught me how to connect with others by teaching me that I was able to connect with her. It was the ray of light that I needed to understand my life isn’t over – and that I don’t need to rely on the delusions or live in the past or future anymore.

Slowly, bit by bit, I have been able to rebuild my life and find solace in a suburban house, video games and a new study program. The dark thoughts, once simmering, have been reduced to a manageable tendency for comfort food. I’m grateful for what I have, and am learning to accept that what I used to have doesn’t serve me well anymore.

These days, I get regular support from my psychology and medical appointments. And I might still reach the goal of getting and holding down a job. I can see a future in the place I now call home.

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Monarch (a poem)

It was a simple enough demand
To be where others are foolishly found
And knowing that your unwitting reprimand
Is at the bottom of a steep mountain, without
Even the most rudimentary climbing gear

You fight off the remaining shackles of mental illness
Making fleeting encounters with those who know best
And some that don’t know, though can’t but discover
That you are a Monarch butterfly
Black stripes bold against your soft orange underbelly

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Critical Perspectives on Waluigi

Must read for 90’s types. Describes Wario as ‘septic and libertarian’. Gold.

The Empty Page

Nintendo have declared 2013 to be the year of Luigi – “Super” Mario’s taller, greener brother. What better time then to take a critical gaze at this most ignored of computer game characters. Often second best to his more heroic brother and hounded by rumours about his sexuality, it would appear there is plenty of material for The Empty Page radical publishers to get their academic incisors into. Yet, that would be an easy option, of far more interest to us is Luigi’s supposedly evil doppelgänger Waluigi. Whilst beloved of weird Twitter gag makers Waluigi has remained in the shadows for too long, now some of our top theorists are devoting their minds to the study of this under-appreciated anti-hero.

I, We, Waluigi: a Post-Modern analysis of Waluigi by Franck Ribery

Waluigi is the ultimate example of the individual shaped by the signifier. Waluigi is a man seen only in mirror images; lost…

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More about anxiety and me

When I had depression I thought that was the low-point I had to have. I didn’t expect anxiety to creep up on me while all the other things are working.

Anxiety is being scared, pretty much of everything except familiar people and places, for no reason. It’s stuttering your words when making a simple customer service request. It’s avoiding phone calls and conversations until you are more ‘well’, but without any real effective long-term medications to treat it with, you might be waiting a long time.

Mix anxiety with paranoia and I tend to get mild agoraphobia – the fear of leaving the house, going to shopping centres and basically living without any freedom. In fact once I considered giving up and becoming some sort of ‘guy on the internet’, a writer and streamer. Luckily I discovered some medications that work for my psychotic and mood symptoms, but the anxiety remains.

My next recovery project will be to try to get into Grow Community, a mental health residential rehabilitation program. I’m also undergoing therapy for trauma and my new psychologist is very professional. I see my doctor next week, and here’s hoping he pulls a rabbit out of his hat too.

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Poem on anxiety

Like a ripple in the breeze
Cradling your insecurities
Anxiety takes a ready grip
With your fears poised to equip

Relentless, unfathomable, in awe
Why can we treat ourselves as more?
Than that which we already find
A tight, tired, sweaty bind

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Statement of beliefs about MI

I was pondering the definition of sanity recently when I stumbled upon what I really think of mental illness after my many years of exposure to the same old grub.

People living with a mental illness didn’t ask for their problems.

People living with a mental illness usually either experience it from childhood, or go through a life-changing event to get there.

People living with a mental illness can recover from it.

When people living with a mental illness recover, the risk of relapse and reliance on medications can lead to an ongoing, further recovery.

However, people living with a mental illness are stigmatised by a mental health system that dismisses and dehumanises its patients.

So what does this mean for the future of the human race?

I expect that more and more people will be vulnerable to mental illness. This will require a shift in public perception, not a race to the bottom.

I predict that clinical and non-clinical services will need to learn to work together, especially with the rise of the peer workforce.

I expect that new treatments such as transcranial magnetic stimulation will be used more widely.

Most of all, the value in finding your true purpose will shine through.

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Hard to make friends when pessimistic

My glass-half-empty approach to most things makes me a hard sell when feeling alone in the world.

It’s a sad fact that I was probably a “stillborn elephant”, as the saying goes.

Not everyone is going to like what I do to have to keep going – finding a low-paying job will be a start. But I know where to go to find friends – starting with the friendship I had with my ex.

Time to get some sleep.

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Fork in the road

It’s that time of year, and I’ve been ambivalent about the part that study should play in my life.

Step back in time a bit, and we know that I left the mental health industry having decided it wasn’t really for me. This is somewhat a personal decision, as I think being a peer worker tended to serve as a reminder of my own mental illness.

This gives me an opportunity to get a job doing something else. But instead, I’ve chosen to (start) study at Campbelltown TAFE, doing a Certificate III in Design Fundamentals.

When I left Accenture one of the first things I remember doing is updating my internet dating profile with the headline, “I probably would have been a pretty good graphic designer”.

The reason will become more apparent as I do the course, I hope.

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Do Aboriginal people get sick?

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There’s a referendum on next year, and we will be deciding who will try to change the constitution in the federal election due this year.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are undervalued and any attempt to derail the referendum, which has popular support, would be tantamount to a devolution agenda.

But do Aboriginal people get sick? According to Edith Cowan University, they suffer social and emotional health problems stemming from lack of historical connection to their land.

I remember a young guy at the Fitness First gym in Campbelltown telling his mate that “He doesn’t get sick [because] he’s Aboriginal”. It’s possible that he was from the Dharawal people, or that he had another way of accessing his historical and spiritual heritage.

I’m looking forward to Avatar 2, where we will see if the blue aboriginals there will be threatened by white men in their mental and physical space.