the sun came up, and I opened my mouth today (Crisis Intervention Team Training Day)
Posted Jun 22 2010 12:00am
"Well the sun is surely sinking down,
but the moon is slowly rising. So this old world must still be spinning around"
-from "You Can Close Your Eyes", James Taylor
So, today was good. A bit of chemical maneuvering and an accomplishment. For the chemicals: I got my Wellbutrin prescription corrected, so I'm on the right dosage of the correct type now. I got the Risperdal injection yesterday - since I didn't go to get it done on Friday when severe depression had a hold on me. I also got my endocrinologist to prescribe potassium, because he told me my potassium was low on my last bloodwork done in his office a few weeks ago. Low potassium, it turns out, can cause a lot of heart related symptoms - chest pains, weakness, dizziness, etc...that I have been experiencing for months, and I suspected after doing some online research and remembering when I was hospitalized for severely low potassium some years ago - that getting some potassium to replace what's missing might help me.
On to the important news:
I spoke to approximately 50 law enforcement officers for our local Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T.) training this morning. I was very nervous, as it has been a year since my first experience doing this , and I wasn't quite sure I had done a great job that time. However, I decided to forget reading the speech, and to, instead, just glance at it when necessary, and talk more frankly and personally, to engage the audience this time. I also described specifics of what it is like to be psychotic, and things that happened to me with my senses when I was experiencing perceptual problems. This seemed to be far more interesting to people than it would have been for them to hear me tell a brief story of my life.
I tried to use a bit of humor as well, and most of the audience laughed a few times. I introduced myself by saying, "Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I'm not an alcoholic. I'm also not a serial killer, even though that image is usually associatd with the terms schizoaffective or schizophrenic." Or something like that. And they laughed.
I can say right now that I feel I did do a good job today. I was very pleased with the police officers' reactions to my speech this time. They asked questions. Several came up to me during the break in-between speakers to ask me specifics about what it was like to hear voices and experience other things I'd talked about. They told me I had courage, that they admired me, that I should be proud of myself. Most importantly, they told me I had helped them to understand mental illness a great deal more than they did before. One said, "You opened a window for us into what your illness is like". That was exactly what I was trying to do.
And so, after a relatively distraught mood this past week, I feel a little better now, because I did do the speech, which is a way of doing my part to combat the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and educating the public, but most importantly, educating police officers so they might have a better understanding of how to deal with people in psychotic states or other crises. C.I.T. saves lives. This has been proven in research.
If you're not familiar with C.I.T., you may want to check out Pete Earley's book, Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness, which describes how C.I.T. was first developed, and also why it's needed and how it helps. For one thing, it prevents people with mental illnesses from being unnecessarily arrested when they need help and not a jail cell. For another thing, it prevents shootings, suicide-by-cop, and other forms of suicide. The C.I.T. program in Pinellas County, Florida, where I live is held two times each year, for one full 40-hour week. One part of one day of that week is set aside for two consumers (ie, people with mental illnesses), and one family member of a consumer to speak about their experiences. On the last day of the week, there is a graduation ceremony. I posted pictures here last year from the graduation ceremony of my first time being involved. I first heard of C.I.T. a few years ago, and wanted to participate in it right away. There are C.I.T. programs in many cities across the United States, like Houston. And NAMI (the National Alliance on Mental Illness) which organizes many of these C.I.T. programs, has useful information on its website and an email list you can sign up for to get news about the program. There is also a Florida C.I.T. program model available online. If there is no C.I.T. program in your area, you may want to contact your local NAMI chapter (if there is one) about starting such a program. It is a very helpful use of one's time.
This morning, in my speech, I talked about things such as taking a car that was not mine, and some really bad situations that I was in, which I did not discuss the first time I did this presentation. One of the other speakers said that this is why I was so nervous afterwards, and I think she was right. I felt like I needed to flee the premises and was going to have a heart attack. But I'm okay now, and as I go to bed, I want to leave this post with the thought that the downs do go back up, the sun eventually returns, and there are ways to make living worthwhile even in the dark times when one feels hopeless and helpless. I think, to some degree, you have to create hope.