Category Archives: Artwork

Joker (2019)

Yesterday I saw Joker, a sympathetic character study of the Man before he became the Super-Villain “The Joker” from Batman fame. Joaquin Phoenix plays a man recently released from a psychiatric hospitalization (those in the know about where the character ends up assume an involuntary one?). Overall I found the movie a fair, maybe even an accurate, portrayal of someone living with severe mental illness. I say this as someone who lives this life, as well as someone who has observed and learned a lot about living with severe mental illness from people in support groups and hospitals.

The importance of medication. Arthur knows he needs his medication to keep his life of job and caring for his mother. He questions his social worker how he will get his meds when social services are shut down.

The trials of living with medication. Not only is there the problem of access, there is the problem of if/how the medication works and makes one feel. Arthur wants his meds increased so that he will feel better. Later when he doesn’t have them anymore he says he feels better off the meds. So which is it – better life with meds but there are side effects, or feel better without them? What if it is both?

Misunderstood by society. One of Arthur’s symptoms is inappropriate and prolonged laughing (not necessarily maniacal, though). Arthur even carries a card that describes his affliction so that he can pass it out to people when he is laughing inappropriately. Still, he is dismissed. Even his co-workers don’t seem to understand either his life with symptoms, or how his symptoms affect how he can do his job.

Often victims of crime. Twice we see Arthur beat up, just for his profession (clown) or his symptoms (laughter). A coworker offers Arthur some protection against further crime, not understanding how access to a firearm could be dangerous to Arthur’s own well-being, as we see later in the movie too.

Unreliable narrations of life. Arthur’s journal is full of jokes, observations about stage presence, and rants, including “I hope my death makes more cents [sic] than my life” and “The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.” One is a brilliant observation; one is suicidal, in context. In addition, delusions create storylines where there was no prior relationship. I so know both kinds of these experiences of not being the most reliable narrator of my life because of symptoms of mental illness!

What Is Unrealistic: Turning to crime (in the vast majority of cases). Ultimately Joker is a Batman Super-Villain origin story, no matter how sympathetic Arthur can seem at the beginning, and he turns to crime whether pre-meditated or a last-minute decision in the moment. This Is Not the case for the vast majority of people with severe mental illness. They are not criminally insane, as this portrayal of the character Joker ultimately ends up showing. The movie is entertaining and engrossing as a character study of someone who turns to violent crime, but in the end it is not a true story of mental illness and violence.

(Read more about violence and mental illness in “Violence and Mental Illness: What Is the True Story?” from British Medical Journal: https://jech.bmj.com/content/70/3/223.short)

An Interview

Hello, Dear Readers!

As promised, here is the link to the interview I did with Rachael of a5ylumpodcast.com. https://a5ylumpodcast.com/episodes/

On her site she says, “In our first episode, we take an in-depth look at Bipolar Disorder, addressing the myths and stereotypes, while discussing the diagnostic criteria, causes, risk factors, and treatments. We also get the opportunity to talk with Deborah Matthews about her personal experience living with Bipolar Disorder.

Fabulous info about bipolar disorder in the first part of the podcast. I hope you’ll listen and maybe learn some about this disorder we live with. Stay tuned for my musings at the end of the podcast.

Progress and Regress

I’ve been tooling along with the stabilization plan here in Texas with family. I’m still getting up at the same time and going to bed at the same time (already good at that); eating regularly (new skill); exercising 2x/day (new that it’s twice and it’s everyday); making lunch and cooking dinner (new skill, still learning); using time to exercise my brain with reading, puzzles and art (re-starting an old skill).

I’m still going to church while I’m here – a Unitarian Universalist one actually since a friend from seminary is the pastor there. Shhh. Don’t tell my family. They already think it’s weird I go to church and Presbyterian is enough for them. They’d probably flip if I went Episcopal! But we have different worldviews.

One funny thing is that we have together found a floorplan we all like that would allow us all to live together. Unfortunately it’s in Texas since my brother is the only one gainfully employed and we’d have to stay close enough to his job. That takes me away from values of long-term relationships, which I’m in back in Illinois and living independently, which may be overrated since I’m doing so well mentally and physically living in community with my family. I’d have a suite with two bedrooms and my own bathroom so I could have a couch, tv, office in one and feel I could live independently within the community.

I’m going on and on about this (unrealistic?) plan because I have been doing well and getting better in the head and body while with my family. Yay! And I don’t have the same live-in community at home. I don’t have someone doing my laundry or cleaning my house (which are things I’m good at taking care of at home, making it easier to let that happen here. But I’m cooking and exercising my body and brain, and those are all things I needed to get better at. The social environment has helped. And I just can’t get the same level of social environment at home. Hence, the flirting with living altogether as a family (boyfriend welcome to live there too – but not with someone long enough for that to be an option, IF he wanted to move to Texas in the first place. IF I wanted to move to Texas in the first place.)
 

Texas Healing potential

Well, it has been way too long, dear reader, since I have checked in. A week after finishing the outpatient program, I flew from Chicago to Dallas to spend a couple months with my family. The purpose is establishing healthy routines I’ve fallen out of. The very routines that could anchor me and my moods in an environment that will help stabilize the swings. Plus I’ll be in a supportive, social environment to help make the process a success.

That stabilization is the theory anyway. 😀 My therapists and psychiatrists are on board. And so I’m giving this a try. 

We are focusing on getting up and going to bed at the same time (something I’m already ok at), showering regularly (which I’m not good at), eating regular meals with more healthy snacks. I’m also focusing on regular exercise by walking after breakfast and water jogging three times a week, with some treadmill thrown in. I’m going to church on Sundays, an important part of my spiritual practices.

I also brought all my art supplies and books and paper, and there are puzzles here, to do some art therapy and some mental exercising. It’s been two weeks and I’ve already finished my first 500-piece puzzle ever!.

Sadly, with all we are doing, I’m still heading into a depressive episode now and I’ve been feeling alone, fearful and suicidal (with plans) too. I can’t win. And I’ve gained weight even with all the focus on losing weight. Gah! Not helping.

I talk to my therapist once a week. Today we talked about my resistance to defusing from my thoughts (ACT skill), and how I can use my support system better, when I’m out of my home and close to them. 

I just don’t want to feel alone and fearful anymore. Here or at home. 

Artwork from the Hospital in May

Poetry from the Hospital – May 10

No resolution for me

No six months out for me

No stability for me

No exit for me (from my illness)

 

Unless I take an exit

As fond as I am of an exit

It’s not a good idea to exit

But, oh, how tempting is the exit

 

Recovery has been/is elusive

Healing has been/is elusive

Reading comprehension has been/is elusive

Satisfying work has been/is elusive

 

Where is my change?

Can I ever change

Will a desire for exit change

How about elusive benefits – any changes?

 

I’m a burden to my support

I’ve tried to increase my support

I’m always worried I’ll lose my support

I’m broken. I don’t know why I have support.

 

Poetry from the Hospital – May 9

Laughing, Connecting –

Oops! I can’t feel happy;

I’m depressed.

Guilty, Ashamed.

Laughing, Connecting –

Stab! See how you

Want to die.

Afraid, silenced.

Laughing, Connecting –

Bam! I’m not in

that role anymore.

Empty, yearning.

Lost in a story –

Splat! You can’t understand

Or remember anymore.

Deflated, defeated.

 

Bipolar ravages lives, minds. You can roll over and give up and live next to potential, yet always short of it. You can adapt and notice limitations as mere borders that outline potential’s shape. Amorphous and floating those borders may be. But you can dance with them. And find life within the ravages. New life burrows and blooms from a fallen log. Never the manic high reaching beyond tree tops. Nor the depressed, decrepit log testing to lie forgotten. Surprise! the bipolar. Fill potential’s shape with a new tree that bends but does not break, that branches up and down and thrives inside its boundaries. Look to the bonsai tree…