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Yesterday we had a meeting at Project Return: The Next Step headqaurters where we discussed a new mission statement and business plan for the organization. It was exhilerating.
Our new mission statement is:
Project Return: The Next Step provides social opportunities and promotes wellness, personal growth, self esteem and peer support while encouraging and empowering leadership.
Our Values are:
Well-being is a real and reachable goal for people with mental illness.
Peer to peer support is a vital part of the recovery process. It helps consumers build a natural base of support in the community that they can count on as they grow in independence and integration.
Consumer voices are essential to designing, developing, and delivering responsive mental health care and rights.
Qaulity consumer-run programs have an integral place in the mental health services system.
Employment can be valuable to recovery, and consumer employees deserve a living wage comparable to their non-disabled counterparts.
People are not defined by their mental illness; they should be recognized by their skills and talents and be encouraged and supported in developing their capabilities.
PR:TNS has both service- and system-related goals which are:
To help consumers thrive in the mental health community more successfully and with greater comfort and satisfaction.
To support individuals in supporting their personal life goals, such as living independently, having jobs persuing an education,and benefiting from a strong social support network.
To increase consumer-run opportunities, demonstrating cost-effective, high-quality programs that significantly improve life for members.
Goals PR:TNS would like to achieve:
To create Friendships outside club environment.
To create community support teams to visit sick memebers.
To provide opportunities to share resources.
To increase independent living skills such as taking public transit.
To empower members and make them more assertive by allowing them to plan and implement their own activities.
To be a family environment. We have brotherhood and sisterhood.
To teach skills in educating families on mental illness.
To offer anger management classes.
To teach members in board and cares what their rights are and how to file a grievance with protection and advocacy.
To educate about medication management.
To assist members in addressing credit and legal issues.
To outreach to warm line callers to gain new members.
To extend warm line hours especially during holidays.
To teach how to lobby for funding and advocate for rights.
To maintain a bilingual (English/Spanish) warm line.
To support initiation or continuation of education by taking members to a school, giving them a tour, and assisting them in enrolling in disability resources.
To educate members about free education at vocational schools and community colleges for people on SSI, GR, or SSDI.
To train members to speak on panels at Jr. highs, high schools, and colleges about mental illness.
To do one-to-one outreach.
To do more promotion.
To give referrals to other agencies.
To take more trips such as a three day cruise to Ensenada.
To Open eight new Discovery Centers. (These are member run clubhouses. We currently have two. One is in Long Beach and the other is in Palmdale.)
To teach computer programs that create marketable skills.
To create jobs such as a business owned and operated by members.
To set up e-mail for all members.
It was fun to pretend we had a million extra dollars coming in and we needed to decide what to do with it. We had a productive meeting and I feel empowered by the fact that our ideas will affect the future of mental health consumers in Los Angeles County for many years to come.
Today I am very high. I mean in the legal way. I am still awake at 7:20 p.m. I've been up 19 hours now. I'm really happy because I have been house sitting for my mom and it has been an escape for me. No one had the phone number here except one close friend. We went out to lunch to celebrate our birthdays. Hers is today and mine is the 29th. Also, I am excited aobut moving. Not the actual drudgery, but the chance to leave behind all the memories and history in that apartment. I had a great time at a meeting that I usually can't stand and two workers hugged me today. The people at PRTNS are like a family for me. They aren't even my second family. Also, we found out today that the county has decided not to cut self-help. We were jubilant today. Good news for the developmentally disabled as well; as it looks like in home supportive services might not get the axe either. We (PRTNS) are going to Sacramento to do a rally against cuts. If my health permits I will go to Sacramento twice in May. Once for mental health and again for the dd population. That's a really hard trip as either you take a really slow bus ride up and do a one day turn around or you take a train. They pretty much can't fly anyone or pay for a hotel stay. I prefer the train to the bus. I am going to look into getting help to purchase some property. It would either be a condo or a mobile home. There is a program run by the mental health association of L.A. County called my front door where they give you $10,000 toward the down payment of a condo. I don't know if I could apply that to a mobile home though. My friends have gone through the program and are really in love with their properties. A cheap condo (500 sq ft.) goes for $45,000 here. To me that is outrageous! But that's what my friends have and they pay $200 each for their hoa and their mortgage. To me that is nothing. You wouldn't be able to touch an apartment that size for less than $800.
They might send me to Japan again in the Fall. That is if I'm better. The only concern I have besides exhaustion is missing some school. It's a ten day trip; but maybe I could get my classes only on one or two days a week. I'm considering skipping a family reunion/memorial in July (in Iowa) because 1. I'm not really up to it physically, and 2. I'm upset because my family in Texas (where I'm from) doesn't call or write. I'm ready to give up on them. Gifts just don't make me feel a part of the family. It is difficult to just get a card and a gift on your birthday. They can't be bothered with me anymore because I have too many problems. I'm working on this stuff in therapy. I go to a shrink who dissects my dreams and this is how I see my subconscious. I just want validation. She's expensive though and I can't affford her for long. I think I'm kind of crazy for going to see her. It's a treat to myself though. It's one of those offices where the person exiting her office goes through a different door so that patients don't see each other. My eyes are blurry now.
I wanted to explain my delusions and hallucinations. Since last Fall I have been having voices when I am in restaurants. I hear people having conversations at other tables and sometimes they are really not audible to me, but I make up my own conversations. I imagine that they are saying negative things about me. They say things like pura loca, she's schizophrenic it is really sad or look at her shaking what is wrong with her. I think these delusions of persecution began because of my health problems. I've always felt persecuted, but now it is more prevalent because I shake a lot. Some of the persecution is real. Sometimes when I walk down the street in my neighborhood I hear "She's sad" or "she looks tired or sick all the time." I can't tell what's real and what's not. When I tell my mom or my friends they often say I'm being delusional. Often I hear people say that I am pretty, am I a model or who is she? This could be delusions of grandeur or it could be real. I often think to myself I'm pretty, but I'm screwed up.
I might have to move in with my mom in May. My mom has always been my biggest supporter. Unfortunately I didn't get to grow up with her. I moved to be with her when I was sixteen. Now I am house sitting for her and I can't sleep. I have insomnia. I fall asleep easily, but then I wake up too early. This is the earliest I've ever gotten up. It is 12:30 a.m. I wake up and then my mind starts to race and I have all this anxiety. I'm worried about my health and my living situation. I just had my Cortisol level tested and the Dr. wants to see me in person next Friday to explain the results. I can be somewhat of a hypochondriac; so waiting that long is going to kill me. It could be Cushing's Disease. This would probably mean I have a tumor in my brain. I have all the symptoms of Cushing's. No one I know knows that I am worried about this because they would probably discount the idea. My mom says that she will go with me to the appointment.
Today I have to be at the PRTNS office downtown at 9:45 a.m. I will have to try to focus and correct paperwork. This is the day each month that we have a four hour meeting that is really five hours because you are there for your lunch hour as well. I take Access sometimes when I go to L.A. or when I go out at night. Access is a curb to curb van service for the disabled. It costs $2.70 to go downtown. Often times the ride is a shared ride which means that one or two other people travel with you and you drop them off too. Sometimes this is inconvenient because your exact time of arrival is unpredictable. Sometimes Access leaves you stranded. Once I got stranded in Hollywood at the Arclight theater and had to pay $50 to get home in a regular taxi. I had met a friend there and she lives by Beverly Hills and had gone home on Access. I don't drive because I decided it wasn't safe. I have had four accidents. It it is too complicated for me. I also have learning disabilities.
I wanted to explain what I think hasn't helped me in the mental health system. First of all I didn't have benefits for one whole year while I was transitioning between disability and SSI. I would go to the local county clinic and see a psychiatrist and beg for meds every month. He would give me enough samples to last me one month. Eventhough this was not costing the county a cent; he acted like a nazi and refused to give me medication. This started happening after about six months of samples. He kept yelling at me and badgering me about going off of disability and getting my SSI. The fact was that I had already put in for my SSI, but couldn't receive it until the state disability ran out. Also, I was not given services for indigent clients. So I ran up some credit cards paying for medication out of my own pocket. I still resent this and don't feel comfortable walking back into that clinic. The other thing is a case manager who has this alliance with the government programs. She is not a federal employee, but she felt compelled to hold up the regulations for receiving Section eight housing. My mother wants to buy a triplex so that she can afford to give me an apartment under section eight; but this worker became outraged and said that that was a violation of the regulations of section eight. Seeming as how I am practically homeless you would think that this worker would be thrilled that I might have stumbled upon a solution. Also, she became irate and raised her voice at me when I mentioned the programs I thought should be cut from the county budget as the consumers were making budget cut decisions. We have a budget defecit that is a fact and can't be changed unless Governor Arnold decides to raise taxes. The teachers are being asked to cut programs. They are being asked to cut their health benefits. The Regional Centers are being asked to cut programs for the developmentally disabled. The main cut they are looking at right now is cuts to in home supportive services wages that are currently being given by a relative. If the relative can't afford to stay home with the disabled individual, they will have to return to work which leaves the disabled client in a board and care. Arnold cut the car registration here and so we are facing cuts to police and fire as well.
What has worked for me was a job program that helped me to write a resume so that I could get a job in the school system. If we had training for consumers that would lead to jobs in the community which pay a living wage (which in L.A. is probably at least $18 an hour) with health benefits we could rise up from poverty and our mental health status would improve. It is a great stressor to not know where your next meal is coming from or if you'll be able to get your meds or where you will live.
Los Angeles County Mental Health is currently attempting to test all consumers for diabetes. My question is: what happens to the consumer once they have been determined to be diabetic, insulin resistant, or hypoglycemic? What is done to help people cope with these illnesses? Certainly there is no nutritional education. I wanted to see a dietician and was told this was not covered under Medi-Cal. I have gone to two doctors for help only to be referred to a third. Thank god I am getting health benefits through work in May, because I have suffered too long with this. My blood sugar drops two to three times a day. Schizophrenia is consuming my whole life.
I went to meet with a couple of coworkers today at a restaurant to explain paperwork to them and I got attitude from one employee. She was a friend, but now chooses to keep our relationship to matters pertaining to work. This is because I wouldn't rent an apartment with her. All of April I avoided her. I was scared to go to her club as I am required to do once a month for my job. She can be nasty at times. So I faced her today and told her what I've been needing to say to her about her not fulfilling her job duties. I told her they were part of her job, and I didn't see why she had a problem with it. Also, I had to meet with one employee who gets very condescending. That went okay too, and I feel like maybe I cleared up a few things that were confusing him. Just a week ago I was considering quiting. I thought I was never going to get health benefits and I was upset about the low pay and difficulty of the personalities and paperwork I face. I'm glad I didn't quit though. It is so nice to go downtown and have everyone ask how I'm doing and have them really want to know. We all have weaknesses and we are forgiving of one another. If I quit I would really have empty days and no comraderie. I feel like I can make a difference.
Sometimes living alone can be so lonely. I get suicidal a lot. I never attempt though. Twice when I was a child I drank rubbing alcohol and had to have my stomach pumped. I was a strange kid. When I'm suicidal I don't floss my teeth. Now I need a root canal and will have to pay for this out of my own pocket. Medi-cal will take at least a month to give the dentist a treatment authorization, and I don't have time to waste here. I guess when I go into a depression I forget the things that bring me joy in life. Loneliness is as slow sure suicide. I have friends but don't get to see them often. I really need to have more friends. Sometimes I can be a litlle hard to take though. I tend to isolate when I'm in public. I don't talk to people. At school I feel like an outcast so I just stay quiet or only speak when I have the answers. Sometimes I know the answer but don't speak. I have three semesters and one summer left before I get my B.A. in Creative Writing. I still have to take the writing proficiency exam to graduate. It is easier to write poetry than it is to write an essay. I found research papers easier though. It is hard for me to pick a thesis sentence. I am having a hard time affording my education and my health was such that I didn't want to attend this spring. I will go in the summer though. If I pass the upper division writing proficiency exam soon, then I can take an independent study course in Psychology. I want to write on the effects of society on mental illness. People with mental illness often believe that the problem does not lie with us, but instead with the general popultaion and how they perceive us. Also, society causes alienation.
Hi, I am a Schizophrenic woman and I am going to tell you a little about myself. I had my first visual hallucination at the age of five when my eighteen year old foster brother molested me. Later, at the age of fourteen, I became psychotic and suicidally depressed when there was abuse in the house. I was hospitalized for three weeks and took meds for a couple of years. Then I dumped them all down the toilet and went cold turkey (and I did pretty well) until I was 22, when I became psychotic when I moved out and went to a university. Ever since then I have been on medication. I wasn't correctly diagnosed until 1995 or 1996. I was first diagnosed Bipolar. I was persistant in returning to the Dr. complaining that I wasn't doing very well. I was on maybe fifteen different drugs before I starting taking Geodon. I was first on Prolixen, then Clozaril, then Zyprexa and now Geodon. Prolixen gave me terrible tardive dyskinesia in my jaw. Now, and I think from now on, I will have the constant movement of my jaws. It is like having your teeth chatter constantly and I wind up grinding my teeth a lot or holding my tongue between my top teeth and my bottom teeth. I have lots of headaches and pain in my jaw. Zyprexa made me eat a lot because it turns off the part of the brain that tells your stomach it is full. In fact, I gained over a hundred and fifty pounds. On Geodon though I have lost one hundred and twenty pounds now.
Part of my recovery process has been self-help. I began working as a Club Aide in Project Return: The Next Step in 1994. PRTNS is a client driven, client run organization that gives jobs to people with mental illness. I ran a two hour club once a week, for four years. This brings together consumers in a mutually supportive environment for socializing and advocacy. We take trips together to camp Big Bear in the mountains by a lake, to Laughlin, Tajoe, Rosarita, Ensenada, and the Grand Canyon. In 1997, they sent me in an exchange program with Japanese mental health clients. We gave speeches and toured a little. Some of our clubs have a particualr emphasis. Some are specifically for Gays and Lesbians, some are for Spanish speakers, one group of women has tea parties, and the one for Bipolar people is called Up's and Down's, then there is Schizophrenics Anonymous. We have over 100 clubs in Los Angeles County.
I worked as a special ed. assistant for three years. Now I have returned to PRTNS and am working as a Regional Aide. I oversee the clubs in the San Fernando Valley. Currently I am having trouble making it to my meetings due to uncontolled Hypoglycemia. I haven't gotten adequate treatment for this with my Medi-Cal, which is the state aid for the low income and disabled. The Hypoglycemia was caused by the Geodon. I am also suffering from depression. I currently take Effexor and Wellbutrin but sometimes I still get really depressed. I don't make enough money to afford an apartment and there is no section-8 housing now that it has been frozen. I am on a waiting list and will be served in 2007 or later. I am going to demonstrations against cuts to section eight housing. I must find a new place to live by May 3. That's all for now, Butterfly Emerging