What’s it like being crazy?

What’s it like being a peer?

I was asked this question today, less delicately, as “What’s it like being crazy?”

As a peer, I live this as my normality and have done so since I started having symptoms as a teen. So, that’s my basis of comparison, before and after, and this makes it easy to answer what it’s like being crazy.

For years, I could depend on knowing right from wrong, true from false, real from unreal.

Then, I couldn’t at times because a newly malfunctioning brain began lying to me.

Worse, I couldn’t tell my brain was lying. It refused to let me.

Now, I live with always the glimmer that what I’m perceiving might be wrong, false, and unreal. And I wouldn’t know it.

The real question is:


What’s it like not fully trusting your own brain?


There’s your answer as to what it’s like to be crazy.

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

World AIDS Day…and what that means to me…

During the crisis in the 80s I was in junior high and high school. I watched the news with my parents every day as they exploited the dying calling them an abomination to God, and saying they were deserving of their suffering because they were gay.

I watched as it was used as a political platform to prove the “Christianity” of the candidate(s).

I remember as a young adult first realizing what hate and marginalization of people really meant. I remember my heart breaking when I understood how unfair and ugly this world really is. People were literally leaving loved ones in the morgue, refusing to accept their bodies because they had a “gay disease” and didn’t even deserve to be properly laid to rest.

So on this day I remember, and send my love to all those of my generation who lost their lives to this disease. We lost (almost) an ENTIRE generation of strong, caring, humans.

And I especially send out love to my dear friend Bunnie Benton Cruse who spent every waking hour doing anything and everything she could to lay those to rest who were rejected and left alone by their families.

– Bethany Brehm Anderson

The outbreak of “Gay Cancer” in 1980’s Southern California

Growing up in SoCal, where the initial major outbreak of HIV occured centered on the bath houses of West Hollywood, I watched the news coverage as the disease progressed over the first year. For a few months, HIV took on the name “Gay Cancer.” There was no name for the virus or disease yet. That’s what the media landed on. Gay Cancer.

The new epidemic had all the best components for the making of a rigid hateful stigma. The prejudice of homosexuality as an immoral, hedonistic activity was already in play. Disneyland cast members (as everyone who works there is named) regularly split up gay couples slow dancing at the Tomorrowland dance floor, as an example of how homosexuals were treated in SoCal. So when a new deadly disease killing gay men rolled in, the already existing stigmatization of homosexuality was amplified a billion-fold.

This immoral lifestyle has brought down upon us a New Black Plague! That right there is how the AIDS outbreak was perceived.

So here’s a story from my high school years about how goofy things got with the AIDS outbreak, at the very beginning in “Ground Zero” sunny SoCal.

Vintage clothes rock. I’ve always liked hitting thrift stores for vintage surf threads. One day back in high school (mid-80s) while visiting my best gal with my new stash of Hang Ten shirts, her dad warned me not to buy used clothes because of AIDS. He asked me to leave my Goodwill bag outside.

Never mind that most infectious viruses break apart when exposed to light. It’s why getting herpes from a gas station toilet seat is so hilarious. Not possible. But this is how much of a public scare AIDS was, laden with misinfornation and fear mongering. My best gal’s dad was not a hateful or unintelligent man. He was caught up in the fearful hype of a new deadly disesse.

Used clothes could be carrying the Gay Cancer. Amazing.

The misconceptions and misinformation… it created a culture of fear, prejudice, and mistrust in SoCal… I remember it well. It sucked.

Things are much better now, in terms of stigma and fear. AIDS isn’t associated with homosexuality by default. AIDS affects everyone, and anyone can contract the disease.

It isn’t immoral. It isn’t caused by any “lifestyle.” It isn’t a mark of societal shame. It isn’t a death sentence. It’s a disease.

So, for World AIDS Day, that’s my story to share. Compared to mid-80s Southern California, things are better. I am confident things continue to get better.

Stigma this. Stigma that.

There’s this dude on Facebook I greatly respect who shared his thoughts on mental health stigmas and their lack of impact on how he views himself. In better part, I agree fully that how a person might feel about me or how they might treat me knowing I have bipolar and CPTSD doesn’t affect how I feel about myself. I’m very comfortable with who I know I am . . . even with those tiny demons tugging at tiny insecurities inside my mind.

Still, it’s one thing to be affected by others’ personal opinion of those with mental health conditions. The issue with stigmatization comes when these opinions deny peers opportunities and when these opinions define policies and statutes that affect only peers. Hurt feelings versus violating constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties is where confronting stigmatization holds importance.

Sometimes, stigmatization has real-world consequences: renting an apartment, applying for a job, acquiring security clearance, interacting with law enforcement. When stigmatization becomes unavoidable in how a peer lives their life, this is where standing up to stigma is both crucial and essential.

Fast Times at Bipolar High

Hello and welcome to the introduction to a new blog series: Fast Times at Bipolar High! In this series, I, Payton, will be explaining how I made it through highschool in Albuquerque, New Mexico while battling to understand and cope with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder while still attempting to grow up, have friends, be a good student and above all else, not lose my mind. This series may get a little intense for some readers so be warned: IF YOU CANNOT HANDLE INTENSITY, STOP READING THIS BLOG! Although, for this intro blurb, I will keep it pretty reasonable. I plan to cover topics such as what its like to be afraid of one’s self, how to positively spin being a totall coocoo weirdo, stigma in public schools and how I survived it, dealing with intense urges as a teenager, leadership, choosing the right school for myself, reconciling being a potential danger, shame of mental identity, the importance of a support system and much more so stay tuned! Without further ado, here is my first entry!

Hi. I’m Payton. Growing up, I wasn’t your typical student. No, I was a slacker. Now, I wasn’t a slacker because I hated school or because I thought it was beneath me, no, I was a slacker because while the other students were studying for finals, I was traversing a world of visitors, visions, hallucinations, harbingers and so much more. The only way I could get through my early life was to live through my madness. It wasn’t an option to just shut it off. The only way to do that would have been to shut everything off because my madness is a part of me and that’s called suicide. Although I often considered it and to this day, I can’t begin to comprehend the miracles that led to me remaining on this earth, suicide is no longer my eventual goal. Despite my…ahem…unique brain being a part of who I am, I do not choose to identify with it. I am not Bipolar. I have bipolar disorder. I have a cold. I have a bad back, but these things are not who I am. I am a poet, an athlete, a smartass and so much more but I am not my vices. I am not defined by what ferocity hold me down but rather by the grace with which I rise against it all.

Due to my constant escapades into the other world, I was not always mentally available to complete assignments, remember birthdays or pay attention to traffic signals but I was never idle. Nay, when my parents would receive calls about their son not taking school seriously and being disrespectful, what my educational professionals failed to realize and mention was that instead of this, I was busy respecting the Otherworld and taking my own subconscious seriously. The two were not mutually exclusive. Like I said, I lived through my hallucinations. They were not random (as bizarre and flippant as they often were). They had a purpose and always…always, they wanted to tell em something. My pseudo-scientific understanding of these visions is that when a brain is wired improperly wired and it’s conscious and subconscious are failing to properly interpret, communicate with and respond to the surrounding environment, an anomaly occurs. Things that would typically be handled with grace and time like reacting to love interests, dealing with rejection and handling trauma are instead processed by the subconscious and then violently & dramatically foced upon the conscious mind without warning. You see, the typical brain’s conscious and subsconscious are like two employees working the day and night shifts. They trade notes between shifts and the work of one impacts the work of the other but they don’t really directly interact very much. Ah…but my brain is far from typical. My day and night shift workers were constantly fighting for more hours because they lived in an unstable enclosure and the costs of rent, security, utilities and food was staggering, not to mention all of the creative aspirations they had to fund (which were all inspired by their unstable lives). Eventually, the boss decided to just let them work at the same time! This is when I dreamt while awake. This is probably also the reason that from age 10 (right before I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type 2 with Psychotic features) every single dream I’ve had has been a lucid dream. This meant that I had the responsibility of not only manually sorting out my processing of my day to day life while I was unconscious but also that I had to tame the subconscious beasts that everyone else’s subconscious naturally tames while I was awake! You see then why it was difficult to be a straight laced, 5 minutes early, B+ or better sort of student, no?

But I was not totally innocent. I slacked intentionally. School didn’t seem to be a very friendly environment for me. It certainly wasn’t onein which I could explore my mind. No, as I later realized with the help of my Kwa’a (Hopi for grandfather), American Highschool isn’t about learning meaningful information or how to think (that’s what college is for), American Highschool is about learning to follow directions. I was literally incaple of following the directions of the first school I attended. So, I took to the wind and with the help of my mother, father and some friends, found a school that worked for me. I didn’t even end up graduating from that school, but it taught me the importance of finding the right fit for my own needs- not the needs I’m supposed to have. As users of the mental health forces that be, we are consumers! We cannot always just take what is given to us, sometimes we must find what it is we need in order to heal and prosper. We cannot be ashamed of seeking help and we must realize that it is our duty to seek help/treatment if for no other reason than to not be a scourge on society. Hopefully we find other reasons like wanting to make our families proud or better yet ourselves proud but prison is real! And so is death. For a long time, the fear of those two things was the only thing keeping me from succumbing to them and at times, I didn’t even have that. It is an absolute miracle that I am not dead, in prison or on the run right now even as I write this. How about a round of applause! I am a student from the graduating class of We Made It! My dear friends, my loving family and my stellar mental health professionals helped me cope with the fear of harming myself and others and helped me not let it come to that but lets talk about that for a second- fear! Fear divides and often conquers us if we let it. There are six natural behaviors. Fear is one of them. Disgust is one of them. Hatred is one of them. Love is not. Compassion is not. Understanding is not. All of those things are taught and learned. Thankfully, joy is also a natural behavior. Lets capitalize on joy. Also, lets become more than what we are made of. Lets become unnatural- unnatural in the sense that our behaviors are chosen, not natural. We are born with fear. We can seek understanding. We can seek enlightenment. Lets seek enlightenment together. I have seen so much fear in my attackers that the only person I pitied more than myself was them, but no more. No more tears. Let’s fight back. Lets wise up. Join my side and lets Stand Up To Stigma.

“What group are you with?” Stand Up To Stigma explained

A number of folks I’ve recently met asked “Are you with NAMI?” or “Are you with DBSA?” or ‘Are you with MHRAC?” or “Are you with ____?”

The answer is “No.” I’ve resigned from each board and committee of all organizations where once I held leadership positions and I am focusing exclusively on Stand Up To Stigma peer education programs, peer focus groups, and peer support groups. These are the projects important to me and my close friends and to be most responsive to the needs of our communities we must be a fully independent peer collaborative.

What I learned is behavioral health solutions must be innovative and opportunistic. The enemy of innovation is asking someone else for permission to do what you KNOW is right in your heart.

When I was 46 the State of New Mexico honored me with an award for Lifetime Achievement in Behavioral Health Innovation. I’m stoked by the opportinities DBSA, NAMI, MHRAC, APD, BCFIC, and other organizations/acronyms provided me. What I realized is what was being honored was the advocacy stuff I was accomplishing independent of existing organizations.

So, the longer answer is it’s great collaborating with good folks like NAMI and DBSA, and it’s doing stuff as a completely peer-developed, peer-managed, and peer-led organization where I feel most useful in mental health advocacy.

My friends and I work best where growth, community, and innovation are encouraged and nurtured.

We’ll be talking a lot more about STS’s mission as we move forward with our support of our community.

F*ck you Kl*nopin

Remembering when I used to have a life. I do this all the time. My friend gets mad at me saying I’m always speaking of the past and showing older pics. But, it’s these times I remember since the loss of me. I guess it’s a reflection on the good times. Like an old man/lady who sits on the porch telling their grand-kids about the good ol’ days.

I remember traveling, going to concerts, comedy clubs, movie premiers, out dancing, going to school to get an MBA, dating, etc. Nothing made me upset, depressed or anxious, except the normal stuff that would cause anyone to feel this way. Everything was impromptu and everything made me excited, especially swimming, hiking and biking.

The best memory is never having to use an alarm clock; in bed at 10, up at 6 and then for a long bike ride before the sun came up. No meds in my cabinet except for a multi-vitamin.



This pic is when I was in Mexico with my girlfriend. We just hopped a plane and went to Mexico and had the absolute best time, even though the hotel was cheap and I slept on a block. It just didn’t matter. I went with the flow on everything. I always laughed at shitty situations and found the good in the bad, the silver lining on every cloud.

Well, now, I just want to die. Every day I feel like I have the flu, am burning on fire, movements in my body, SI, anxiety off the charts, etc. I have no real friends/family anymore. Nobody understands and nobody cares. The world is a fair-weathered friend. I guess it’s a survival of the fittest theory.

I want children, a nice husband, nice friends (the ones I have are utter shit), a safe home and to wake up at least feeling 75%. This is no way to live. I honestly don’t see how people do it. Some doctor destroys our lives with a shitty Big Pharma drug and we must resign to the fact that we will be sick/bedridden for a decade, if we even make it. I’ve lost my looks, my personality and my will to live.

I very much miss the good ol’ days.

F*ck you Kl*nopin.

Police kill themselves, too – Insight on police suicide

By Steve Bringe
Founder, Stand Up To Stigma

A very sad and troubling article came across my feed concerning police officer suicides in New York City.

NYPD suicide problem grows as eighth officer takes own life this year

I’d enjoy sharing an insight on the great need for safe, protected mental health services in the law enforcement community. Trust me. This is good stuff. It’s useful information gleaned from a firsthand perspective.

When I was developing CIT (Crisis Intervention Training) for the Albuquerque Police Department, part of what was created was internal mental health services for the officers AND their families. This is an excellent service tbat carries an amount of unrecognized cultural complexity.

Having given numerous CIT presentations for APD and having been tasked with recruiting peer presenters, I’ve had the unique opportunity to speak openly with police officers on the crucial conversation of mental health in a safe, honest, and vulnerable setting. And, having been invited to participate in the full 40 hours of CIT training, I’ve gained direct empathetic understanding of the police perspective in crisis situations. This is because APD officers shared their law enforcement stories with me and our peer presenters.


Observation: Being a cop is a rough and high-stress job and cops aren’t proactive in seeking out mental health treatment.


The issue – as I see it – is there’s a self-stigmatizing critique in the law enforcement culture that to seek mental health services is a weakness and shameful. By making the services internal to APD the hope is more officers will get immediate help with the support of their colleagues.

As a peer who has bipolar and severe PTSD, as well as a history of trying to kill myself, if I didn’t have the excellent services I have now, suicide as a mental health treatment solution would continue to be part of my life. It’s no different for cops who experience horror on the job.

As said, I was also invited to take the full 40 hours of CIT, and not only the two hours I developed. The insight I’ve shared – redacting specific officer stories which were shared on a personal level – speaks from my understanding of the training and ingrained responsibilities officers hold in mental health crisis situations. As their job description requires, cops are placed in environments most folks can’t appreciate as unavoidably emotionally rattling. This happens at crime scenes that aren’t pretty or heart warming. As a layperson, some of the stories officers shared with me are terrifying.

These unimaginable on-the-job life events and the psychologically damaging consequences don’t clock out at the end of the shift. The jolting effects follow the cop home and are there when the cop wakes up the next day and the next day and all the next days to come.


The inherent mental
health-impacting job stress in law enforcement can be crippling and exhausting day after day, and suicide is one natural conclusion to untreated PTSD.


Purposely, I saved the PTSD acronym for the last.

Here’s the insight on the law enforcement culture I want people to realize and understand. My feeling is suicide shouldn’t be exasperated by cultural competency. The law enforcement community is incredibly loyal and tightly insular, and the law enforcement community contends with its own internally propogated stigmatization. Police officers both need and deserve specific and special services for their mental health wellness. And, seeking out these critical services must be accepted, supported, and destigmatized to be effective.


The Albuquerquue Police Department is providing these services. Let’s see what happens with the culturally internal stigma about getting mental health services.


I applaud with both hands and both feet – as well as the hands and feet of the (occasional) make believe people in my head – the forward-thinking and active-solution of the Albuquerque Police Department. I applaud the department’s dedication to the officers’ and the responsibility shown in dispensing the permeating self-sigmatization in law enforcement culture. And, in talking with officers on the street whom I trained, these services are being openly utilized. Score.

As a closing comment, I’ve spoken primarily of the mental health needs of law enforcement officers as being consequential of their employment. It’s equally important to address bipolar, schizophrenia, DID, depression, and any other mental health issue with the same considerations as everyone else on the planet. These mental health needs are also part of APD’s in house services. Just so you know. Score.

By the by, I aced the CIT exam. 100% is my score. Bonus.

Kindly reprinted from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Thanks to medical billing, everyone can be diagnosed with a mental illness

By Stephie
STS Peer Advocacy Presenter

Regardless of what side of the gun debate you are on, think very, very carefully before advocating for rounding up and vilifying the “mentally ill,” whatever that term even means. Facts: Statistically, people who are mentally ill are far more likely to be victims of violence, not perpetrators. Statistically, most mass shooters are not mentally ill. A few here and there, yes. But most are not.

As most know, a provider of any kind must cough up a diagnosis code in order for anything to be paid by, or re-imbursed by, insurance. If you ever report to your doc or counselor that you are depressed, you will get a diagnosis in the DSM-V. If you are worrying and feeling a lot of anxiety, you will get a DSM-V diagnosis. If your memory isn’t what it used to be and a provider notices, you will get a DSM-V diagnosis. Pretty much the entire experience of being a human being is contained in the DSM-V. If your significant other leaves you, or you get laid off from your career and you are distraught and see a provider, you will get a diagnosis in the DSM-V (“Adjustment disorder.”) If your child dies, or your spouse or mother, and you are experiencing extreme grief and tell a provider, you will get a diagnosis in the DSM-V. If your kid is autistic, they are in the DSM-V. If your teen has had a rough time and has been suicidal or needed therapy (pretty common these days), they have a DSM-V diagnosis.

So what is mentally ill? What does this even mean? Most people probably have a stereotyped image of a homeless person talking to themselves. And the vast majority of those folks are not dangerous to anyone but themselves.

As a matter of interest, I just heard this past weekend from a person in the mental health field that racism is in the early stages of being discussed as a mental illness, as it constitutes such disordered thinking.
So just what does mentally ill mean? Think long and hard before you start advocating for a “mentally ill registry.” It is not unlikely that you will be on it.

I’m Human, You’re Human, Let’s Talk

I’m Human, You’re Human, Let’s Talk.

by Amanda Jenson
STS Editor

We’ve experienced another several horrific tragedies lately. As someone who knows what trauma and pain feels like I am sorry. I see you. I hear you—even if I can’t know exactly how you feel. I won’t pretend to.

When these tragedies strike the media focuses on the gunmens’ mental health. I don’t deny that someone who creates such heinous misery has some kind of insanity clouding the mind, but we focus so much on his or her mental health that we forget to focus on the survivors’ mental health and what they are now going through.

My friend with bipolar pointed out that the victims still living will not want to seek care for their health now because the media (including president Trump) immediately bludgeons our feeds with the stigma that having a mental health issue means you are violent.

Proof:

“This is also a mental illness problem,” Trump said of the mass shootings. “These are people that are very, very seriously mentally ill.”

“Trump called for reforming “mental health laws to better identify mentally disturbed individuals who may commit acts of violence and make sure those people, not only get treatment, but when necessary, involuntary confinement.”

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Mr. Trump said. Calling mass shooters “mentally ill monsters.”

Unstable gunmen are dangerous, no doubt, and there are no words for the horror I feel at the actions committed by these people, mental illness or no, but comments like these are dangerous for thousands, if not millions of those who suffer with mental illness. We are now “monsters” who don’t belong in public. I’m appalled at the ignorance and stigma portrayed and a little awed at the uncaring and unfeeling behavior they display to those who suffer with mental illness.

Those emotions sound a little like how they describe the gunmen.

Victims may see their symptoms of deteriorating mental health and equate themselves to being dangerous as well, just like their persecutor was.

Who would want to get mental health care if “involuntary confinement” is being used as a means to control those who may want mental illness help? Chills curled their gentle governmentally-controlling fingers down my spine when I read this.

If the media wants to discuss and accuse mental health as the problem for these violent acts then look at the full spectrum of how mental health plays into tragedies, because we now have many people out there ruminating on a bloody scene that they can’t quite believe was real, trembling in the night instead of sleeping. People are flinching and crying in a corner, trying to cover their ears and heads simultaneously, from every little sound they hear. They are wondering if the generally safe world they once knew was a lie. They won’t let their children leave the house now. Their anxiety has overtaken their body and they aren’t eating. They’re vomiting every time they try, their tears rushing too quickly down their face. They aren’t even sure if they are alive anymore. Did they die in the shooting? They think they should’ve died instead. They wouldn’t experience this horror and guilt that they are still living. Those gunshots they keep hearing? Are they inside or outside of their head? They just want those images gone. Some can’t stop picturing their loved ones lying broken on the ground.

And then you have the other spectrum. You have the people laughing, saying they’re fine—the people who perhaps even make crass and sadistic jokes. Why? Are these people sociopaths? They feel numb. They are thinking, “What’s wrong with me?” and instead of seeking help, close themselves off even further for fear of being dangerous and out of guilt of their seemingly callous reaction. Are they like the gunmen? No. A resounding no!

They are dissociated from horrors that can break the human mind. It’s a natural response to disasters and serves a survival purpose. I would know. I have a dissociative disorder borne of extreme violence and horror in my childhood. My disorder is considered a “severe mental illness”. I still function as a kind member of society. (Yet I know what it’s like to sit in that corner shaking and crying due to PTSD. I also know what it’s like to pop out inappropriate jokes.)

Do I want to go shoot people? Never.
I’m seeking professional and community support for my trauma and pain. I hope those affected by these tragedies will too. I hope they look past the media and governmental stigmas and get the support, love, and understanding they deserve and is naturally needed. There are many of us out here in the community with mental illnesses waiting to hug you, waiting to tell you what services and help you can get, waiting to express how sorry we are and that we know—not exactly, not perfectly, but we know.

I know what it feels like to be cruelly victimized by people. I know what trauma and horror is. It’s stuck in my brain too. Most people with mental illnesses are loving, intelligent people who advocate for others who struggle with mental health issues. Let us hold you now.

Hey White House, Media and those with stigmas still, don’t you think some of these people affected by this will be suicidal? Do you think the horror is over for them just because you played the blame game so effectively? Want to save some more lives? Stop insinuating that all mental illness is dangerous and that those of us with them need to be locked up against our will.

Those affected will be suicidal. Some are now. Save the people left too, stop just focusing on the horrors already committed. And for the love of all humanity (literally), stop telling the world that those of us with mental illnesses are all dangerous. Save the ones who won’t get help now because of your dangerous and scape-goat comments. Stop perpetuating the violence you claim you want to fix.

1. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/04/trump-says-hate-has-no-place-in-our-country-after-shootings-in-dayton-and-el-paso.html

2. https://www.thedailybeast.com/trump-calls-for-involuntary-confinement-of-mentally-ill-in-shooting-address

3. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/05/us/politics/trump-speech-mass-shootings-dayton-el-paso.html

4. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/08/04/trump-says-hate-has-no-place-in-our-country-after-shootings-in-dayton-and-el-paso.html