Monday, October 16, 2017

When The Exorcist Hits Home

a B&W photo from The Exorcist the television series shows a femme with her knees bent and arms extended over her knees, but her head is on backwards; under the photo is a grey background with black text "When The Exorcist Hits Home" with a black line under it and more black text "Not Standing Still's Disease"

Content note: discussions of abuse

I have always enjoyed media around scary things. Scary things tend to help my PTSD, but there's something more to it. It's something I've been trying to figure out how to word, but just couldn't ever fully construct the thought.

When I heard they were making a TV series about The Exorcist, I was way too excited. Season one was set around Regan, originally played by Linda Blair in the 1973 movie. You follow her story as an adult, played by Gina Davis. She has a husband and children but changed her name to avoid her mother as well as her history. Through the season, it comes out the Angela (her assumed name) is actually Regan and that's why negative things continually happen to her family. She takes on the demon who has possessed her daughter and all kinds of stuff happens. I won't say more in case you're interested in catching up.

Season two just started and it's really good. People were upset that this season wasn't focused around Regan. However, it's focused on the actual exorcists from the first season. They're battling demons, themselves, and a conspiracy within the Catholic Church.

It's all the things I love come together.

We have Playstation Vue and it has a DVR. We love it, especially me - I tend to watch more TV than T does. Regardless, I catch up on shows the next day or a few days later, so I was just watching last night's episode.

Spoilers ahoy!

About halfway through the episode, Marcus and Tomas - the two priests - visit a home where the daughter is supposedly possessed. In order to conduct an exorcism, certain things have to be found in the afflicted person. These include speaking in tongues, knowledge of the future, ridiculous strength, an aversion to holy things, and physical changes. These all have to be present.

Marcus and Tomas are debating whether or not the girl is possessed. They learn from an outsider that the girl has been ill all her life, going in and out of hospitals, but no one can figure out what's going on. This is different than the mother had stated, which then concerns Marcus. After all, why would the mother lie?

Marcus searches the house and finds a box of pills. Medications including hallucinogens are found and he's able to piece together quickly that this girl is being poisoned. The mother, it turns out, has Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP).

(More on this later.)

Marcus bursts into the girl's bedroom, pushes the mother away, and tells Harper “You are clean. You are pure.” Mrs. Graham, the mother, has been filling Harper's head with lies in addition to the medications. Mrs. G yells at both priests, telling them to leave, but they refuse. As Tomas chases after the mother (and gets a head wound), Marcus comforts Harper:

M: “You’re safe now. Do you understand?”
H: “No, I’m sick.”
M: “No. No, you’re not the sick one. Your mum’s the sick one. You’ve done nothing wrong.
H:“It hurts.”
M: “I know. I know it does, sweetheart. It’s gonna carry on hurting for a long time. You’re gonna look at other kids, other parents, and you’re gonna say 'Why me? Why can’t I have that life instead?' And then… you’ll get better. You’ll come out the other side. You’ll be stronger than you were before. Cause you will know exactly who you are. That’s what survivors do.”

The mom then bursts in.  

M: “Close your eyes and don’t open them, no matter what you hear.”

Marcus' attention constantly shifts back to Harper, comforting her when he can in between this altercation with Mrs. Graham.

The third party mentioned earlier, a social worker, has gotten the cops as she was denied entry to the home. They show up at the perfect time to help put an end to the fight. The next scene occurs in a hospital, where Marcus and Tomas are catching up.

M: "Do this long enough, you think you understand evil in all its forms, every face that it wears. Then something like this comes along. Least with a demon, you know where you stand. There’s a… purity to the design, a logic, a form. But a parent who did that to their own child… makes you wonder what the hell you’re even trying to save.”

End spoilers, begin overanalysis!

Ever since I was young, I've enjoyed things around possession and demons. Despite growing up in abuse, I still felt interested in evil. I never really understood why. I felt like there must be a reason.

As I was watching this episode, Mrs. Graham's action took me by surprise. I did not see this twist coming and was unprepared. My mother was accused of MBPS, which is part of what led to her pulling me out of school and away from healthcare providers.

A few weeks ago, T and I were catching up on one of my favorite podcasts: Wine and Crime. I had decided we should skip the episode where they cover MSP. One night, though, after listening to something else discuss the condition, I couldn't sleep. The wheels in my head were turning, focused on the odd paralells. Instead of being able to sleep, I listened to the skipped episode.

One of the reasons I like Wine and Crime is because they go through the psychology behind a condition or crime. It's done in a way that is tasteful and not full of ableism (usually). I started to understand even more about the need for attention that some people have. Mother meets many of the warning signs - craving attention and being depended upon, wanting others to see her as overly devoted and saintly, boundary issues, exaggeration, etc. 

I've thought of the odd similarities before but thought it couldn't happen because I am sick. Just because someone has some of these tendencies doesn't mean they act on them. It also doesn't mean they don't take opportunities that present themselves, either. She did not have to make me sick, but certainly enjoyed the attention around it for ages.

She begged me to apply for SSDI, despite the fact that I was not even close to bad enough, because I feel that she wanted to tell people about her disabled daughter. She always told me I'd die early, that no one would love me, etc. 

Whether she has MSP or not, the similarities are striking and telling.

Everyone needs a Marcus

I won't lie - I rewatched these scenes three or four times. I cried for a while. I made T watch when he got home, simply because it confirmed a thought I had once about why I like these kinds of shows. I needed someone to witness the feels I was having.

The truth is I could've used a Marcus a long time ago, someone to hold me and tell me that this is going to suck and hurt. Someone to tell me it was going to eventually start feeling less raw, too, would've been amazing. Who knows whether or not I would've believed a Marcus.

Still, I know this phrase would've been beneficial: "Cause you will know exactly who you are. That’s what survivors do." Hell, three years removed from contact with my mother, and this is still heavy (in a good way).

Even more, Marcus' analysis of the situation in the hospital is, for me, spot on. I am strangely comforted by the idea of evil, demons, and possession. It has a routine to it. There are rules to that world that we don't have in humanity, things that even evil won't violate.

I would feel more comfortable, surer of myself against a demon than I do against my own mother - and that's a damn shame.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Nortriptyline: Day 40

grey background with striped teal lines at top and bottom; 3 pills - one white and pink, one white and teal, and one white and orange - sit above pink cursive text "Nortriptyline: Day 40" sits above teal text "Not Standing Still's Disease"

I've been on nortriptyline for forty days now.

I am seeing a very slight decrease in my migraines. When I have them upon waking up, I can usually combat them with caffeine. This wasn't necessarily true before, and that's why I sought out treatment anyway.

I've found that if I don't sleep enough, that's when I tend to wake up with a migraine. It's hard for me to go back to sleep or take many naps. That makes catching up on sleep really difficult when I need some more ZZZs. 

I suppose it doesn't make it easy when I'm waking up with high pain up to five times each night, too. My alpha wave intrusions are getting worse. On top of that, since doubling my nortriptyline dose, I'm having terrible nightmares.

It certainly doesn't make me want to sleep enough if I'm waking up completely bawling at a terrible dream involving the piggies or T or my sister. Super realistic nightmares suck.

At the same time, I've picked up from a productivity standpoint. With nortriptyline being a tricyclic antidepressant, my mood has improved and I'm getting shit done. It's nice to feel like I can do things again.

Still, I don't know that having nightmares and increased nausea versus slightly more tolerable migraines is acceptable for the long-term. Maybe there's a better medication out there for me?

This is one point where I'm struggling with being an empowered patient. Perhaps it's because I had to beg to get even this medication from a paternalistic old man. Maybe it's because I've read too much about psychosis and fear withdrawal from this med. Regardless of the cause, this helps my depression but not really my migraines as much as I think something else could.

Since I'm going to ACR this year, I'm also less inclined to ask about switching medications right now. Perhaps this is something to bring up at my December 1st neurology appointment instead.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Matt Across America

photo of a road in the desert and Matt Iseman (with an exaggerated large head) stands wearing a suit in the left corner; the Joint Decisions logo is at top middle; a road sign has "October 4" on it with a stamp to its right featuring the FB Live symbol; at bottom is a green text box with white text and logos "Go to [FB Logo] @JointDecisionsRA" and below "[FB like symbol] to be notified when Matt goes live!"

If you've been paying attention to the Joint Decisions Facebook page this morning, you already know that there's something exciting going on! If you missed it, though, head over and check out all the lives videos with Matt Iseman being posted today on Facebook and Instagram.

In case you missed it: Janssen Biotech, Inc. and Joint Decisions are launching Matt Across America – a photo contest to raise awareness and help people understand what infusion therapy for RA is like.

Over the next few months, cardboard versions of the amazing Matt Iseman will be traveling to infusion offices across America, and we’re encouraging people with RA to share photos of their infusion day (by taking a selfie with Matt's cardboard likeness) to help patients connect with one another and see what getting an IV can really look like.

It can be scary. Before Matt started infusion therapy to treat his RA, he wasn’t sure what to expect - and he's a doctor

If you're lucky enough to snag a cardboard cut-out, here's what you do:
1. Post the selfie to Facebook and/or Instagram
2. Using #MattMeAndIV and #Contest
3. Tag @JointDecisionsRA to enter

At the end of the campaign, the lucky winner will get a meet-and-greet with Matt Iseman!

It's days like these I actually am sad that I do a shot at home for my treatment.

Matt will be LIVE throughout the day today on Joint Decisions' Facebook and Instagram pages, talking about his experience with RA. You can also learn more, print a “Matt” in case he’s not traveling to your infusion center, and see photos throughout his journey across America on the JD FB page.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stop Blaming Mental Illness for Violence

kirsten with purple short hair looks sad but you only see her left eye and side of her face; a purple text box with white text: "Stop Blaming Mental Illness for Violence" and "Not Standing Still's Disease"

This post is based a bit on a Twitter rant I went on this morning. (BTW stats I'm citing can be found at NAMI, NIAMH, CDC, and SAMHSA - a post will go up on Chronic Sex tomorrow with more info.)

It's Mental Illness Awareness Week. Instead of breaking down stigmas, many of us are having to avoid media spouting ableist rhetoric. Hell, even Jimmy Kimmel's monologue from last night that's gotten so much praise is full of ableism.

Did you not recognize the ableism in that speech, or do you not care?

Parts of Kimmel's monologue last night were good. However, his rant against the lifting of an ableist bill was troubling. Why? Those of us who are mentally ill are far more likely to be killed than to kill. We are up to four times as likely to be the victim of a violent crime than to be a perpetrator of one.

As someone who is mentally ill, I am tired of people falling back on mental illness as the cause of all violence. This is especially true this week.

26% of American adults have a mental illness, and 25% of those are 'serious' - including me and my PTSD-riddled noggin. Around 70% of adults with mental illness also have a non-mental chronic illness. Living with both lead to a 4x chance that you'll die early.

Those of us within the queer or LGBTQQIA2+ community? Over twice as likely to struggle with mental health. About the same can be said for those of us with physical health issues. Mental illness race breakdown in adults:
  • 20% - white & black
  • 16% - Latinx
  • 14% - Asian
  • Nearly 30% - Native Americans & Alaskan natives

Society wants to blame us mentally ill for bullshit. They refuse to address the roles that Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) or socioeconomic contributions to mental illness. They want to blame our brains for fucking up their world but refuse to address or acknowledge marginalizations that contribute to mental illnesses. 

Marginalizations lead to huge barriers in getting mental health care, including even a diagnosis (let alone treatment), Discrimination (racism, homomisia, etc), access, insurance, poverty, transportation, stigma, & language barriers all contribute to a lack of treatment.

Statistically then, those of us with a ton of marginalizations should be the ones committing violent crimes - but we're not. 95% of violence in the US isn't linked directly to mental illness. Mental health is only brought up when the offender is a white male. Otherwise, racism and Islammisia come into play. 

People need to recognize that some people just fucking suck, regardless of mental health state. As Michael Caine's Alfred said about The Joker, "Some men just want to watch the world burn." Let's take that further, too - either they want to watch the world burn or they give no fucks about anyone else but themselves. Last I checked, being a selfish asshole was not a mental illness. 

Awful human beings exist, regardless of their mental or physical health state. Being a bigot and wanting to murder people isn't a mental illness issue as much as it's a societal issue.

My mental illnesses don't make me awful any more than having short hair does.

This is supposed to be the one week where we can speak openly about stigmas we face as mentally ill people. Instead, we get to fight ableism from all sides. It's ridiculous and harmful.

Stop with the ableism and harming our communities because you don't grasp humanity's failings. All you're doing is contributing to the stigmas we're trying to fight, making it harder for us to live full lives. You're perpetuating violence against us as you promote ableist ideas.

Please just stop.