Jason Jepson

@jasonjepson | contributor
I am a mental health advocate living with schizoaffective disorder. I was the chairman for the veteran's council at the Richmond, Virginia veteran's hospital. I am in the advisory board for Students with Psychosis. Several of my first person accounts have been published in the Schizophrenia Bulletin. I have also been published in Psych Central, OC87 Recovery Diaries, as well as, here at the Mighty. I understand not everyone will be able to relate with my writing about schizophrenia. Not everyone has the neurological disorder, but I hope they will be open to understanding what it is like. Schizophrenia can be treated and recovery is possible. I hope you enjoy my words. I have two books you can get on Amazon. One is When We Were Young and the other is a book of poetry called Misfires From A Lyrical Mind.
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distraction for dealing with #Schizophrenia

<p>distraction for dealing with <a class="tm-topic-link mighty-topic" title="Schizophrenia" href="/topic/schizophrenia/" data-id="5b23ceb500553f33fe99bf59" data-name="Schizophrenia" aria-label="hashtag Schizophrenia">#Schizophrenia</a> </p>
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Community Voices

distraction for dealing with #Schizophrenia

<p>distraction for dealing with <a class="tm-topic-link mighty-topic" title="Schizophrenia" href="/topic/schizophrenia/" data-id="5b23ceb500553f33fe99bf59" data-name="Schizophrenia" aria-label="hashtag Schizophrenia">#Schizophrenia</a> </p>
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Jason Jepson

Speaking Up for Myself to Help My Schizoaffective Disorder Treatment

Since my mental health diagnosis, I have been deeply aware of taking my prescribed medication. In order to manage the symptoms of schizoaffective disorder, it is crucial that I stay on the regimen my doctor and I have worked out together. One of my medications has to be prescribed by the pharmacy after I have blood drawn. The timing of having my blood drawn, getting the report to my doctor, his studying the report, confirming next month’s meds, and getting my monthly prescription mailed to me is a tightrope of timing. Because of a move to a new state and a new psychiatrist, I recently found myself running right up to the night when I took my last pill for the month, however, my prescription for the next month had not arrived. As a result, I began to fixate on not having enough medication to get me from month to month. The following day, I knew I did not have medication to take… I had run out of the medication I must have to manage my symptoms. Anxiety and fear took over my life. I tried to distract myself using music, exercising, and listening to books on tape, but nothing seemed to work. I called my parents, and they tried to reassure me that I would be fine, and the meds had to be on the way. I tried messaging my psychiatrist to let him know the medication for the new month had not arrived. His assurance that the medication was en route did not relieve my stress. What if the meds got lost in the mail? What if someone took them? What if they went to another address? With all these questions flooding my brain, I began to have delusions and other symptoms of my schizophrenia. I was stressed. I was paranoid, and I was exhausted from fear. The next morning, I woke up early to have my coffee. In the twilight of the morning, I saw a UPS truck enter my street. It stopped in front of my apartment building, and I just knew there was a package for me. The driver went to the back of his truck, got a package, and began walking up my stairs. He handed me the package and I said thank you. He had no idea how much I needed what was in the package. The medication had arrived… down to the wire, but it had arrived. I trust my doctor, so on my next teleconference visit with him, I brought up how stressed I had become when waiting for my medication to arrive each month. We talked about the timing of my blood draw, and based on my concerns, he came up with a better solution. It was decided that beginning with that month, I would go to my local veteran’s clinic and get my blood drawn earlier in the month. By doing so, there would be plenty of time for him to receive the report and prescribe my medication before the end of the month. My medication would arrive before I was close to running out. It turned out to be a simple solution, after all. I felt such relief knowing that there was a good solution to my fear of running low on medication. But I was also proud of myself for taking the initiative and getting the help I needed with this problem. I made a choice not to wallow in fear and anxiety, but to take control and work out the problem with my doctor. My doctor is a very understanding person, and he recognized that the previous plan was not working effectively, and he was willing to resolve this situation that was causing me so much anxiety. I know he does not want me to fall through the cracks, and he will do what is needed to help me continue my successful mental health journey. I also came away from this experience with a new sense of my own responsibility in my treatment plan. I had to learn to speak up to improve my situation. I could have easily gone on worrying at the end of every month when my medication was running low, but I did not have to do that. I am now an active participant in my treatment plan. I can make a difference in my own life by not allowing fear and anxiety to control me.

Jason Jepson

Coping With Unexpected PTSD Triggers

Recently, I was watching the movie “A Few Good Men,” which was a favorite of mine even before I joined the Army. It has good acting and a good twist-and-turn storyline. The plot of the movie centers around the trial of two Marines who participated in a hazing incident in which they were ordered to put a tainted rag down a weaker Marine’s throat and then tape his mouth shut. As I watched an actor describing in full detail what had happened, in my mind, I was transported back to a night in the desert when I was in the army, and I had a similar experience. I try not to dwell on this traumatic event in my life, but as I watched the movie, I relived my horrifying experience from the Mojave Desert. I quickly turned off the television, but the thoughts of my own encounter came roaring back, and I found myself experiencing the incident all over again. Even when my trauma first happened, it was so profound that I did not know how to manage it. Being taped up was the last thing I thought I would go through during my Army experience. Racing thoughts and a mountain of anxiety came next. I felt the tight restraint of duct tape being wrapped around my body until I was lying on the ground — unable to move in any direction to defend myself against my fellow soldiers. The duct tape was strapped across my mouth, and I was having difficulty breathing. I remember thinking, “How could this be happening to me?” I was sure I was experiencing the last moments of my life. My parents flashed through my mind. Would they ever know the truth about what had happened to me in this desolate, lonely place? I now know that seeing the hazing incident in this movie brought about a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashback, not from combat, but from reliving a very traumatic incident in my own life. I looked down at the bracelet on my left wrist. It had the phone number of the veterans’ crisis line. I also remembered that I had planned and prepared for a situation like the one I was experiencing at the moment. Due to my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, I had a routine I could follow on stressful days. On days like the one I was going through, I knew keeping to my routine was crucial. With the past weighing heavily on my entire body — the part of my body that had been taped — I still had to move forward for the rest of the day. My daily routine was the only way I could move on. I began by having coffee while listening to uplifting music. I brushed my teeth too. Those two small steps made me proud that I had at least begun my daily routine. However, I still had the rest of the day to get through. In “survival mode,” all I had was my routine. I had not had an episode like this in months. Next, I called my mom, which was also a part of my daily routine. She has always been my go-to for advice. When I deal with anxiety and my symptoms of schizophrenia, I wonder what I would do if I did not have my parents — who are my trusted partners in my mental health journey. My mom gave me what I call “sensory therapy.” She asked me to use my senses to tell her what was going on around me. My mom asked me, “What do you see?” “My neighbor in his convertible, driving in the parking lot.” I answered. I then went on to say, “I see a breeze blowing the palm trees. I love that I live in a place where there are palm trees.” She asked me to close my eyes and tell her what I could hear: a dog barking, traffic out on the highway, seagulls squawking. By doing this, I felt enlightened and in touch with what is real and what is happening around me. Her voice made me feel safe, and I knew I was not back in the desert. I told mom I was looking forward to my exercise for the day because it would start to get rid of this full-body anxiety. She told me to call her after my exercise just to check in. Exercise is a regular part of my daily routine — I do it six times a week. Without exercise, racing thoughts and anxiety would probably fester inside my mind. Exercise not only burns off my energy, but it also burns away excessive thinking and worrying. Watching an intense movie became a trigger for me — even though I consider myself to be in recovery. I relearned that having a routine is crucial to distract myself from thinking I have no control. In the end, I had my action plan: my routine, my self-care, and my “trust partner.” All of these things are imperative for succeeding in my mental health journey.

Jason Jepson

Coping With Unexpected PTSD Triggers

Recently, I was watching the movie “A Few Good Men,” which was a favorite of mine even before I joined the Army. It has good acting and a good twist-and-turn storyline. The plot of the movie centers around the trial of two Marines who participated in a hazing incident in which they were ordered to put a tainted rag down a weaker Marine’s throat and then tape his mouth shut. As I watched an actor describing in full detail what had happened, in my mind, I was transported back to a night in the desert when I was in the army, and I had a similar experience. I try not to dwell on this traumatic event in my life, but as I watched the movie, I relived my horrifying experience from the Mojave Desert. I quickly turned off the television, but the thoughts of my own encounter came roaring back, and I found myself experiencing the incident all over again. Even when my trauma first happened, it was so profound that I did not know how to manage it. Being taped up was the last thing I thought I would go through during my Army experience. Racing thoughts and a mountain of anxiety came next. I felt the tight restraint of duct tape being wrapped around my body until I was lying on the ground — unable to move in any direction to defend myself against my fellow soldiers. The duct tape was strapped across my mouth, and I was having difficulty breathing. I remember thinking, “How could this be happening to me?” I was sure I was experiencing the last moments of my life. My parents flashed through my mind. Would they ever know the truth about what had happened to me in this desolate, lonely place? I now know that seeing the hazing incident in this movie brought about a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashback, not from combat, but from reliving a very traumatic incident in my own life. I looked down at the bracelet on my left wrist. It had the phone number of the veterans’ crisis line. I also remembered that I had planned and prepared for a situation like the one I was experiencing at the moment. Due to my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, I had a routine I could follow on stressful days. On days like the one I was going through, I knew keeping to my routine was crucial. With the past weighing heavily on my entire body — the part of my body that had been taped — I still had to move forward for the rest of the day. My daily routine was the only way I could move on. I began by having coffee while listening to uplifting music. I brushed my teeth too. Those two small steps made me proud that I had at least begun my daily routine. However, I still had the rest of the day to get through. In “survival mode,” all I had was my routine. I had not had an episode like this in months. Next, I called my mom, which was also a part of my daily routine. She has always been my go-to for advice. When I deal with anxiety and my symptoms of schizophrenia, I wonder what I would do if I did not have my parents — who are my trusted partners in my mental health journey. My mom gave me what I call “sensory therapy.” She asked me to use my senses to tell her what was going on around me. My mom asked me, “What do you see?” “My neighbor in his convertible, driving in the parking lot.” I answered. I then went on to say, “I see a breeze blowing the palm trees. I love that I live in a place where there are palm trees.” She asked me to close my eyes and tell her what I could hear: a dog barking, traffic out on the highway, seagulls squawking. By doing this, I felt enlightened and in touch with what is real and what is happening around me. Her voice made me feel safe, and I knew I was not back in the desert. I told mom I was looking forward to my exercise for the day because it would start to get rid of this full-body anxiety. She told me to call her after my exercise just to check in. Exercise is a regular part of my daily routine — I do it six times a week. Without exercise, racing thoughts and anxiety would probably fester inside my mind. Exercise not only burns off my energy, but it also burns away excessive thinking and worrying. Watching an intense movie became a trigger for me — even though I consider myself to be in recovery. I relearned that having a routine is crucial to distract myself from thinking I have no control. In the end, I had my action plan: my routine, my self-care, and my “trust partner.” All of these things are imperative for succeeding in my mental health journey.

Jason Jepson

Coping With Unexpected PTSD Triggers

Recently, I was watching the movie “A Few Good Men,” which was a favorite of mine even before I joined the Army. It has good acting and a good twist-and-turn storyline. The plot of the movie centers around the trial of two Marines who participated in a hazing incident in which they were ordered to put a tainted rag down a weaker Marine’s throat and then tape his mouth shut. As I watched an actor describing in full detail what had happened, in my mind, I was transported back to a night in the desert when I was in the army, and I had a similar experience. I try not to dwell on this traumatic event in my life, but as I watched the movie, I relived my horrifying experience from the Mojave Desert. I quickly turned off the television, but the thoughts of my own encounter came roaring back, and I found myself experiencing the incident all over again. Even when my trauma first happened, it was so profound that I did not know how to manage it. Being taped up was the last thing I thought I would go through during my Army experience. Racing thoughts and a mountain of anxiety came next. I felt the tight restraint of duct tape being wrapped around my body until I was lying on the ground — unable to move in any direction to defend myself against my fellow soldiers. The duct tape was strapped across my mouth, and I was having difficulty breathing. I remember thinking, “How could this be happening to me?” I was sure I was experiencing the last moments of my life. My parents flashed through my mind. Would they ever know the truth about what had happened to me in this desolate, lonely place? I now know that seeing the hazing incident in this movie brought about a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) flashback, not from combat, but from reliving a very traumatic incident in my own life. I looked down at the bracelet on my left wrist. It had the phone number of the veterans’ crisis line. I also remembered that I had planned and prepared for a situation like the one I was experiencing at the moment. Due to my diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, I had a routine I could follow on stressful days. On days like the one I was going through, I knew keeping to my routine was crucial. With the past weighing heavily on my entire body — the part of my body that had been taped — I still had to move forward for the rest of the day. My daily routine was the only way I could move on. I began by having coffee while listening to uplifting music. I brushed my teeth too. Those two small steps made me proud that I had at least begun my daily routine. However, I still had the rest of the day to get through. In “survival mode,” all I had was my routine. I had not had an episode like this in months. Next, I called my mom, which was also a part of my daily routine. She has always been my go-to for advice. When I deal with anxiety and my symptoms of schizophrenia, I wonder what I would do if I did not have my parents — who are my trusted partners in my mental health journey. My mom gave me what I call “sensory therapy.” She asked me to use my senses to tell her what was going on around me. My mom asked me, “What do you see?” “My neighbor in his convertible, driving in the parking lot.” I answered. I then went on to say, “I see a breeze blowing the palm trees. I love that I live in a place where there are palm trees.” She asked me to close my eyes and tell her what I could hear: a dog barking, traffic out on the highway, seagulls squawking. By doing this, I felt enlightened and in touch with what is real and what is happening around me. Her voice made me feel safe, and I knew I was not back in the desert. I told mom I was looking forward to my exercise for the day because it would start to get rid of this full-body anxiety. She told me to call her after my exercise just to check in. Exercise is a regular part of my daily routine — I do it six times a week. Without exercise, racing thoughts and anxiety would probably fester inside my mind. Exercise not only burns off my energy, but it also burns away excessive thinking and worrying. Watching an intense movie became a trigger for me — even though I consider myself to be in recovery. I relearned that having a routine is crucial to distract myself from thinking I have no control. In the end, I had my action plan: my routine, my self-care, and my “trust partner.” All of these things are imperative for succeeding in my mental health journey.

Jason Jepson

Feeling Connected to Others With Disabilities Due to Schizophrenia

A while back, a Picasso exhibit came to my city’s art museum. I was excited to view the exhibit because I have always admired Picasso and his influence on other visual artists. One painting by Picasso, called “Celestina,” was a woman with an eye that was semi-closed — even dead — Some might call her “ugly.” Picasso painted “Celestina” during his Blue Period, using drab shades of blue and an overall theme of despondency. “Celestina” has so much detail that one might think it a photograph upon first examination. Personally, I was drawn to her eye. While the rest of this woman felt commonplace, her eye called out for my attention. I wondered how Picasso had encountered Celestina. Was she familiar to the people around her community? How did they treat her because of her eye? Did Picasso ask her to come to his studio so he could paint her? Did he just file her image away in his mind and paint her later? What was Picasso’s motivation for painting an older woman who had a clear facial difference? For his own reasons — which we will never know — Picasso wanted to remember Celestina because she had some impact on his life. I have lived in my average-sized city for many years, but I will soon be moving to a different state. Just like Picasso, there are people that I see on a regular basis who have formed portraits in my mind that I will never forget, even when I arrive in my new state. There is an employee at the grocery store whom I enjoy seeing when I am shopping. When I see him there working, I assume he is doing OK — after all, he made it to work. On the few occasions when he speaks, I have to listen closely because he is very soft-spoken. Even when this man is facing me, he does not make eye contact. His left arm hangs low, and it looks like it is a heavy weight he has to drag along with him. His arm was potentially injured in an accident, or maybe he was born that way. Sometimes he works in the self-checkout section. On other occasions, he works as a cashier. This tells me that he is a dedicated and trusted employee who has been given responsibility at his job. Sometimes when I am in public places, my schizophrenia is triggered, and I think people are talking about me behind my back — laughing or staring at me and wondering what I am going to do next. When I pass this man in the store, though, I am never paranoid. Long after I move, I will remember his face and mannerisms. He is a portrait in my mind of someone who, without knowing it, has made a small impact on my life. I have to go to the veteran’s hospital once a month for medication and to speak with my psychiatrist. When I am in the mental health waiting room, there are faces that are comforting to see. Because of the pandemic, there have been fewer people in the waiting room, but there is a man who talks loudly to himself and who does not appear to be able to sit still for long. I suspect that like me, he is hearing voices, and he may think he has to respond. Whenever he sees me, he always says “hi,” and I smile back and ask how he is doing. He always answers that he’s “fine.” Then he goes back to speaking to his invisible stranger. I do not know his name, but I remember his kind smile and his friendliness. There is also a young man and his dad who I often wonder about. I know how important it is to have support from family because of my mental health diagnosis, and I am so glad this young man has his dad with him to help him ask questions and gain confidence. The duo is usually quiet in the waiting room, but the dad lights up when he sees me, and I always ask how they are doing. I can relate to the young man because there was a time when either my mom or my dad had to go with me to my mental health appointments. Both these men at the veteran’s hospital are veterans, and they seem to be dedicated to staying on top of their diagnoses because they are waiting for appointments to get help just like I am. They have given me encouragement as I see how determined they seem to improve their health. They seem to know how important support is and also seem willing to give it to their loved one. Their portraits in my mind will bring smiles to my life forever. Seeing these men in my reality has given me comfort. Everyone has some kind of struggle, but these men seem to be doing something about theirs. They look to be soldiering on and not surrendering. I hope they receive the same kind of joy in life that they have given me. These are just some of the people I have added to my “portrait gallery.” They are priceless in their ability to spread enjoyment to anyone who is willing to search for their strengths. I am thankful to have them in my collection of portraits in my mind.

Jason Jepson

How Mindfulness Plays a Role in Managing My Schizophrenia

When I exercise, I like to listen to music. Like many others, I enjoy walking to the beat of music. The right song or music helps to set a rhythm to my walking. However, recently I have been walking without listening to music, so I will not be distracted and can concentrate on my surroundings. I have schizophrenia, which sometimes alters my perception of what is going on around me. When I am not listening to music, I try to use my senses to recognize what is real and to experience what is really going on. In my neighborhood I do not see “No Trespassing” signs. It is as if others want to encourage people to walk or ride their bikes. It is nice to see kind faces sharing their day with me. Sometimes there is a nice breeze. There are always cars on the road, but it is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, so they stop for walkers. The cement sidewalk is hard. As I quicken my pace, I can feel air going in and out of my lungs. I walk around the parking lot of the Veteran’s Hospital and see two snow white swans dipping their heads in the pond. I see planes taking off at the airport and wonder where they are going. There are bikers on the sidewalk; I try not to get in their way. They say, “Good morning,” and I do the same. There is a young couple outside the bagel shop enjoying their breakfast. There is a man walking his dog, and they see me, but I do not feel threatened. I nod a hello and they acknowledge with a nod back to me. The cool breeze drives me to walk further. I take out my phone and check the app that counts my steps and tell me how far I have come. It has been about two miles. I walk by other restaurants and notice employees waiting for their manager to unlock the front door. I smell cigarette smoke. I am still walking as I notice a house painted a robin’s egg blue. Then I hear workers hammering wood on a new house that had not been painted yet. I hear Spanish being spoken. I turn the corner and walk in the opposite direction. There are women in stores shopping for clothes. The clothes are hung nicely on the wall and on a rack in the middle of the store. There is a playground, but no children are playing. It must be too early, or they are in school. On the front glass door of the stores there is a sign that says, “If you are vaccinated you don’t have to wear a mask.” Nevertheless, some people are wearing masks as a precaution. At least people are out to enjoy the morning. I keep going still feeling the clean air in my lungs. I really enjoy feeling a part of the day when I can use my senses to engage in reality. The only person who knows I have schizophrenia is me. No one feels threatened by me, and I am not threatened by them. When I listen to music, I can see things going on, but I cannot really experience life in my neighborhood as when I allow my senses to enjoy what is going on. I feel like I am being embraced by the air in my environment. It is a terrific way to engage true reality. It is a wonderful way to start my day. I hope you will try it sometime.

Jason Jepson

Using Words for Good: My Journey With Schizophrenia Advocacy

Do you remember the old saying heard on the playground, “Sticks and stones might break my bones, but words can never hurt me?” People often throw around words like “crazy” or “psychotic” to describe those with a mental health diagnosis. The word “psychotic” is not necessarily a stigmatizing word, but people sometimes use it as an insult. Most of the insults I have experienced are inside my head when my paranoia or delusions take over. Self-stigmatizing can also be a product of our experiences. I experienced hazing in the military. If it were not for that event, it would likely have been some other traumatic event to bring out my schizophrenia. Yes, I said it: I have schizophrenia, specifically schizoaffective disorder. An urgent call by my parents to the police made me realize I needed help. Those events, as horrible as they were for everyone involved, helped me reach recovery today. I do not reject my past, but I have learned to accept my past and move on without shame. For me, medication, a doctor that I trust, and a good support system has helped me to move on, but I will never forget what those first years into my treatment plan were like. Time helps, too. As time has gone on, I realize I have become a mental health advocate, and not a mental patient anymore. How I use my words has become very important to me now. I use words to help educate people about my mental illness, about my schizophrenia. Honestly, I can be hesitant about sharing my story with other people, but I have had help from various sources. My parents have been a tremendous source of help for me. The doctors and other veterans at the veteran’s hospital have given me emotional, as well as physical help. I have found purpose in sharing my mental health journey and with the online organization called Students with Psychosis. Even though we each have our own advocacy going on, we do not compete with one another, and I am motivated by seeing what everybody else is doing in their advocacy efforts. I mentioned time helped me to move on and developing a regular routine has helped me get to a place where my words can make a difference. I set a clock for 10 a.m., but usually I wake up before it goes off and listen to a book on tape. I eat breakfast. Eating healthy has become important to me, and I enjoy planning and preparing my own meals. Twice weekly, I listen to a church service online, and I daily listen to music. Seeing what my schizophrenia community is doing on social media pushes me to be active. Exercise is crucial for my mental health, and I have realized regular workouts make a difference in my mental health journey. Often, I spend time writing, and every day I call my parents, because it is important to me to have some social contact every day. There are days when I do not feel motivated or even a little depressed. Sometimes just sitting on my balcony and breathing the fresh air helps me to clear my head and enjoy my quiet times of reflection. Although it was life-altering, being diagnosed with schizophrenia was not the end of my life. I was diagnosed in 2004 and I am in recovery. It might have taken some time, but I am satisfied. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me because I am valuable, and I have purpose.

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Treatment for Schizophrenia

<p>Treatment for <a href="https://themighty.com/topic/schizophrenia/?label=Schizophrenia" class="tm-embed-link  tm-autolink health-map" data-id="5b23ceb500553f33fe99bf59" data-name="Schizophrenia" title="Schizophrenia" target="_blank">Schizophrenia</a></p>
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