Coping techniques used by people with schizophrenia account for a 25% variance in their quality of life. Unfortunately, people who have psychotic disorders tend to use predominantly harmful or ineffective coping techniques.
Hosts Rachel Star Withers and Gabe Howard are seeking to change that by sharing coping techniques for managing schizophrenia and help people understand why effective coping techniques can be life changing.
Guest Michelle Mariscal joins who blogs about her journey with schizophrenia and shares some coping techniques she has found to work for her over the years.
Michelle Mariscal holds a master’s in psychology, a bachelor’s in sociology, and has much life experience dealing with a serious mental health disorder.
She resides on the Central Coast in California with her husband of 30 years, 4 children, and her granddaughter.
Read her blog by clicking here.
Rachel Star Withers creates videos documenting her schizophrenia, ways to manage and let others like her know they are not alone and can still live an amazing life. She has written Lil Broken Star: Understanding Schizophrenia for Kids and a tool for schizophrenics, To See in the Dark: Hallucination and Delusion Journal. Fun Fact: She has wrestled alligators.
To learn more about Rachel, please visit her website, RachelStarLive.com.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
Gabe makes his home in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. He lives with his supportive wife, Kendall, and a Miniature Schnauzer dog that he never wanted, but now can’t imagine life without. To learn more about Gabe, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Schizophrenia. Hosted by Rachel Star Withers, an advocate who lives openly with Schizophrenia. We’re talking to experts about all aspects of life with this condition. Welcome to the show!
Rachel Star Withers: Welcome to Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media podcast. I’m your host, Rachel Star Withers, here with my incredible co-host, Gabe Howard. Coping is something that we are constantly doing in life, both in good and bad ways. Life is ever-changing and we have to find ways to adjust to those changes. Of course, this applies heavily to living with schizophrenia. Coping with the symptoms of schizophrenia and coping with how schizophrenia affects our lives.
Gabe Howard: Rachel. I always feel the need to point out, of course, that some things just don’t matter if you have schizophrenia or not, right? I mean, having coping techniques is good just to get through life. So, it’s certainly possible that while you’re listening to this, some of the coping techniques or strategies that we give have nothing to do with the fact that you have schizophrenia. It just might be a good coping technique to get through the day or to get through children or to get through work or to get through the DMV.
Rachel Star Withers: On that note, our incredible guest today is Michelle Mariscal, who blogs about her journey with schizophrenia. And she’s going to share with us some of her own coping techniques that she’s found to work for her over the years. So, what is coping? Let’s start with the basics. So, coping refers to conscious strategies used to reduce unpleasant emotions, problems or difficulties. Now you might be thinking to yourself, Well, Rachel, hold on. What’s the difference between coping and CBT or cognitive behavioral therapy? Now, in the past, we did an incredible episode on cognitive behavioral therapy, and the short answer is coping techniques are a part of that. So, the things we’re talking about today are not necessarily the same as cognitive behavioral therapy. But yes, a lot of them do play a part.
Gabe Howard: One of the hallmarks of CBT cognitive behavioral therapy is it helps you discover what coping strategies will work best for you or may work best for you so that you can try them and then, of course, report back on their efficacy. So there really is a big difference between what CBT does and what a coping strategy is. They sort of do fit together, but they of course are really separate.
Rachel Star Withers: Coping techniques and coping strategies are very important for people with schizophrenia. Unfortunately, they found that people who have psychotic disorders tend to use predominantly harmful or ineffective coping strategies.
Gabe Howard: A good example of this would be alcohol or drug use. Another good example would be overeating. Another good example could be self-harm. These are coping techniques and they are coping skills. But the cure is worse than the disease in these examples.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. And many times, another one is just flat-out denial, denying that the problem is as bad as it is. We might accept the fact, yes, I hallucinate, but it’s not that big a deal. I’ll start to spiral downwards and I’ll just kind of keep ignoring it. I’ve done this before. Everything will be fine. As opposed to just saying, no, I am not doing okay. I need to let people know. I need to go update my doctor that I am spiraling worse.
Gabe Howard: Unfortunately, ignoring the problem has never worked. We know this not just in schizophrenia. We know this just in life.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. Researchers found that the coping styles used by people with schizophrenia actually accounted for a 25% variance in their quality of life. How they saw like their life going on and how happy they were with their life.
Gabe Howard: Wow. Twenty five percent is a big number. If you got a 25% raise at work. You would think that was a huge rate. It’s a 25% discount you would think was a big discount. So that’s something worth paying attention to.
Rachel Star Withers: Let’s talk about some of these schizophrenia coping techniques. Now, I know in the beginning I went on and on about how great and specific but let’s start out with the general ones, the ones that maybe you’ve heard before. But if you’re new to schizophrenia or you’re a loved one out there and you’re like, Hey, I need to get all the basics down, let’s hit those first. The one that we harp on the most here, is establish a support system. Now, whether you’re talking family, friends, your collective treatment group, meaning doctors, counselors, peer support, support groups, that is all part of your support system. Collect those people. The next step in that is invite other people into your treatment journey. This is an interesting one because I’ve done this a little over the years with my family, I have had a few different counseling doctor sessions where my parents would come and I will say this is a very vulnerable kind of thing to actually ask someone to come to the doctor with you. But I do think it’s important, especially if you’re dealing with severe schizophrenia and you’re wanting accountability, to open up and say, hey, will you come to the doctor with me? Have you ever done that, Gabe, where you had someone come with you to just sit in on an appointment with you?
Gabe Howard: Yes. And I’ve done it in in both ways, right. Where I’ve had somebody come up to me and say, Gabe, do you want to go to therapy? A support group, a doctor? And I’ve said, no. And they’re like, Well, what if I go with you? And then I’ve changed my mind and I’ve also done it the other way where I want to go, but I’m nervous or worried or afraid for whatever reason. And I’m like, Hey, will you go with me? And they work, at least for me well, if you establish good guidelines to begin with, especially if there’s something that maybe you’re worried about or nervous about telling the person, that is where it was really beneficial to me to ask somebody to go. It’s like, Look, I know that my provider needs this information, but I don’t want to say it, so why don’t I bring you and you just rip the Band-Aid off for me and then I’ll answer all the follow up questions. So, think, think in terms of that. They’re not just there for moral support. They may play a very active role.
Rachel Star Withers: Another one that we talk about a lot is adapt your lifestyle to what’s going on with your schizophrenia. Make lifestyle changes that help you. A big one here is finding a job that works for you. For me, full time, it’s not an option. I can work about two weeks at a full-time job and then I start to fall apart. Part time job, something with flexible hours. One thing I love nowadays is that there’s so many options for these kind of phone app jobs, jobs that you’re able to sign up for. My dad has actually he’s retired now, but he’s now doing this job where you can just pick up shifts at random places. He got to be a stock boy at a grocery store the other day. He’d never done that before, and he just thought it would be interesting.
Rachel Star Withers: And then you have things, of course, like Uber or Lyft, all these kind of driving options, something that I’ve heard from other people with schizophrenia that they enjoy doing is Grubhub, the different kind of apps that they have where you just drive and pick up food that that actually worked for them a lot better than having to drive in a car with somebody. Point is, find a job that works for your lifestyle. The same thing goes with living arrangements. I didn’t realize it, but I was in a living arrangement for a small amount of time that was really bad for my mental health. I was still living with family members, but my mental health, the certain family members had started to weigh heavily and I spiraled downhill just because of all of the stress. Kind of notice things like that when it comes to living arrangements. Another thing as far as adapting your life, transportation. Driving a car might not be good for you. You might not be able to handle the stress of traffic in general.
Rachel Star Withers: Look into options like public transportation. Me and a friend were going to the theater the other day and she’d never ridden with me before and she got in my car and she’s like, Oh wow, you drive a stick shift. That’s so cool. And so many people always say that to me. Ironically, the reason I drive a stick shift is due to my schizophrenia, because right away I can tell if my mind isn’t working too good because I can’t back out if my brain is messing up. Even in the littlest, I usually stall out when I go to get in reverse in a stick shift. That’s why I’ve driven my last two cars have been a stick shift is it’s just easier for me to recognize when my brain is off.
Gabe Howard: Rachel, as you were talking, I was thinking about every meme that I’ve seen on social media about diet and exercise and take time to smell the roses and get good sleep. You know, they’re all pretty and they have nice pictures. But I often think that those are mental health related and not schizophrenia related. At the same time, people with schizophrenia also have mental health. Are those memes offensive or are they actually helpful?
Rachel Star Withers: Yes, they can apply. I think that one of the most important things is adapting them, though, to schizophrenia. I love to eat healthy. That’s great. However, a lot of times I just can’t. And I’ve kind of been in that cycle the past month where I have not wanted to cook or make anything and I’ve had to rely on any type of food that I can warm up. The good thing about that is that I’ve already stocked up on that on good days. Find like different foods that maybe you can easily microwave or that you can easily just kind of like throw together without any thought for times that you’re bad. For times that I’m really bad, and the concept of even microwaving something isn’t going to happen, I have protein bars as a backup. I can at least wander out of my room, eat a protein bar, and I’ve eaten something that has vitamins and whatnot in it for the day. Do I want to live off processed protein bars? No, that’s not healthy at all. But have something that, yes, I can do this and at least, let’s say, maintain a balance. When it comes to exercise, look, that’d be great, Gabe, if all of us could get out for 30 minutes a day and go run.
Rachel Star Withers: Honestly, that’s not going to happen. Okay? And that’s I want to be clear. That’s kind of ridiculous to tell someone with schizophrenia who is having very negative symptoms and are barely able to get out of bed. Hey, do you want to go outside and go for a jog? That would be great for your mental health. However, something that I do that has helped is the five-minute rule, meaning if I haven’t gotten out of bed for the past, you know, three days at least saying, hey, for 5 minutes, I’m going to get out and do this one thing. And you think 5 minutes is nothing? You’re right. But hey, I at least did something. So, whether that’s I get out of bed and I stretch for 5 minutes, you know, I love my martial arts. I love my nunchucks and 5 minutes of nunchucks. Super mood booster. It makes me feel badass, Gabe. I don’t know. It’s just something about nunchucks. Even if they’re foam. I feel so cool. Like, All right. Even if it’s just 5 minutes. I did it and I did something.
Gabe Howard: Rachel, I want to be clear. You didn’t feel badass. You are badass.
Rachel Star Withers: Well, it’s a good reminder for myself. Let’s say that it’s a good reminder. Hey, look at me. And then I accidentally, like, whack myself. But it’s foam, so it’s okay. No one saw.
Gabe Howard: All right, Rachel, we cover the diet, the exercise, but we didn’t get to take your medications as prescribed. And that’s always a loaded topic. But do you see taking your medicine as prescribed as a coping strategy?
Rachel Star Withers: Yes, especially with schizophrenia. I think yes. It can be a coping skill that you might have to adjust. One thing, and I know some people aren’t going to like this, is use a pill container if that helps you set aside your pills. I do mine like once a week. I’ll set them all out for the week. That means it’s very easy. I have a little morning slot and a little afternoon slot. And the reason I know a lot of people don’t like it is it makes you feel like you’re in your nineties because most of the time when you think of pill containers, you see like someone’s super old with their little pill container and yeah, it kind of sucks to be in your twenties or something and use them, but get over it. Okay. Like it’s okay. It’s not that big a deal. I’ve been using mine now for at least ten years, so I’ve gotten used to my little pill container. And of course, they actually have very cool ones out there you can buy now.
Rachel Star Withers: And you can be all like cool and pop open it. So, yes, use a pill container if that helps. Set alarms on your phone. And if you’re someone who really struggles with taking your pills, have somebody hold you accountable, flat out say, hey, person in your life that you trust. I need help taking my pills. Sometimes I don’t want to take them or I don’t feel like I should take them. Can you flat out ask me? Like sometimes just knowing that there’s someone out there who could say, Hey, did you take your pills today? You could ask a friend, family, loved one, could you text me sometimes and just ask, Am I staying on my pills? Am I keeping up with my schizophrenia treatments? Am I even going to the doctor consistently? Little things like that to hold you accountable.
Gabe Howard: Rachel, I obviously think all of those are great ideas. But I have to point out those were kind of basic. You promised some cool coping techniques and strategies. What? What do you got? Amaze me.
Rachel Star Withers: All right. So, one of the most well-known symptoms of schizophrenia is, of course, hallucinations. Now, whether we’re talking about visual, audio or tactile or any other types of hallucinations, one of the most common things that we do to deal with these type of hallucinations is distractions, which can be good and bad. Unfortunately, a lot of times we pick bad ways to distract from our hallucinations. What you want to do is to have an active distraction, meaning something where you’re taking an active role in the distraction. What would not be an active role is I’m hallucinating, let me go sit down on the couch and watch TV. Let me go sit down and listen to some music. So, you want to take an active role. An example would be a jigsaw puzzle. Now, Gabe, there is nothing in the world that makes me want to do a jigsaw puzzle. However, that engages your mind and it makes you have to have a physical part in it. Another is gardening, drawing, exercising., of course. I know I’m sorry to bring up exercise, but it is. When researchers looked into the best ways for people with schizophrenia to distract themselves for hallucinations, these are some of the core bits that they found. When listening to music.
Rachel Star Withers: All right. You want to keep the music at a low level and you want to be able to do other things. So have the music playing. But you need to be doing other things, whether it’s cleaning or whether it’s organizing, whether you’re actually doing let’s say work. You want to be doing something else, not just sitting around listening to music. I feel like this could apply to TV also, but that wasn’t listed in the research. But they said listening specifically, if you use earbuds, only use one. And that, ironically, is something that I found with my hallucinations. I can’t have two earbuds in. It sets off my hallucinations for some reason. Something else that I had never heard before is that many times if you hear voices, they can be less troublesome if you are actively using your own voice. Meaning if you’re singing or humming or reading out loud, that can help control your voices that you’re hearing.
Rachel Star Withers: Another great distraction from hallucinations is playing an instrument. And the reason that this works is that whenever you’re playing an instrument, you’re not just kind of going through the motions. It involves highly functional coping because you’re going to have to work on the tone, the pitch, the rhythm, the chords that are going on. And the last one is going to be reading, however, with people with schizophrenia, for a lot of times, reading can disorient us. So, what researchers have found is that if you switch back and forth between reading internally, like reading quietly to yourself and reading out loud, it helps you control what’s going on.
Rachel Star Withers: And I like that. That’s something I tried last night. Mentally, I was kind of off and I was like, okay, let me pull out this book. And I did that. I would switch kind of every other line. I would kind of read in myself, and then I would read the next line kind of out loud, not like screaming if just like as if I was reading to someone else in the room. For me last night, I noticed that I was able to kind of focus on the book. And that pulled away from my hallucinations. I kept seeing creatures, blobs, whatever. Just kept running past my door. It was very annoying and it was kind of making me uncomfortable because I was like, Wait, is there someone in the house? Or I’m hallucinating? And once I kind of got on the book that I was reading, I kind of forgot they were even there because I was so busy thinking, okay, this line I’m going to read out loud. Oh, next line, quiet. So, this kind of active distractions can be very helpful when it comes to schizophrenia.
Gabe Howard: I love those and those are definitely unique. But what about other symptoms, for example, like disorganized thinking?
Rachel Star Withers: Disorganized thinking, disorganized thoughts, disorganized speech even is a huge issue for a lot of people with schizophrenia, including myself. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is talking my thoughts out loud. I guess if you could be like a fly on the wall of my house, you would hear me talking out loud a lot, Gabe. And it might freak you out. Most of the times it has to do with me talking my thoughts out helps me kind of put them in order. Almost hearing them back to me helps me think through things. One of the things I’m having to do recently in my life is I’m setting up this this trip to take and I’m having a really difficult time with the dates. So, I was having to loudly talk through the dates. Okay, if I’m going to be doing this on this date, I need to fly in here. And that helped me kind of put the trip together because I just couldn’t seem to wrap my head around the concept. So, I started first by talking it out and then writing it out, waiting a few days, and then going back and looking over those thoughts and realizing some of these do not make any sense. I don’t know what I was thinking, but that helped kind of put everything in line. A really interesting coping strategy that I found that I have practiced over the years, is talking out your thoughts and your decisions as if you’re teaching someone. So, for instance, saying, okay, if this is going to happen, you need to do this. And what that does is it kind of pulls you out of your mind and makes you think about your thoughts in a different way. One of the coping skills with disorganized thinking I came across actually had nothing to do with schizophrenia, but similar mental disorders like autism and Down’s syndrome, was to tap out or clap out your thoughts.
Rachel Star Withers: Let’s say we have a family member is coming to visit, which can be good, but it can also cause a lot of stress. So, if I’m going to clap out or tap out my thoughts and I’m going to clap for everybody just so you can hear. [clapping along] First, I need to get up. I need to figure out what to wear. My brother is coming. So today I’m going to wear basic shirt, pants, tennis shoes to hang out with my brother. So, you see, the clapping, kind of like it pauses your mind and kind of places like, okay, let me kind of figure it out word for word. This also slows down your thinking.
Gabe Howard: On one hand, it sounds funny. As I was watching you clap, I was like, okay, you looked kind of dorky. But here’s the thing. I heard every single word that you said, so I can imagine how if I had no intentions of paying attention all of a sudden heard that I have that rhythm. It’s it was arresting to me as a bystander. I can imagine how it would be for you, because you’re trying. You’re putting it in your head. You’ve got the cadence, you’re paying attention, you’ve got the physical sensation. So, I can really see how this would work. And I. I want you to know, even though you look dorky. Yeah, it was effective. It was very effective.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. And I did the clapping for our audience. What I’ve been doing is just kind of like tapping my thigh. And did you notice how I just kind of changed my thoughts? I said, tapping my thigh, because as I said it, I did it. And what you’ll notice is that it slows you down. So, as I’m talking right now, I’m tapping my thigh, so it comes out a lot easier. So, it’s really good because if this is something you’re out in public and you don’t want to awkwardly just be walking down the street clapping and people are like, What is happening? The tapping your thigh, it works a lot better. Another thing when it comes to tasks is making checklists. However, if your thoughts are disorganized, those checklists are probably going to be need to be made in advance. So, on a good day, yes, make a checklist. What is it that I have to do? And then on days that you’re feeling off, you can easily kind of grab that checklist. Now, I have found some of these online. My issue is, of course, that their general checklist didn’t fit my life at all. So, this might be a thing that, yeah, you can look online for some of these daily checklists, but you’ll probably have to tweak them quite a bit to apply to your life.
Rachel Star Withers: And we’re back with different coping techniques for managing schizophrenia.
Gabe Howard: Rachael, I love these examples, but before we go any further with your examples, let’s swing over to our guest. Michelle Mariscal dropped by to give us her thoughts. Let’s go ahead and roll that interview now.
Rachel Star Withers: Excited to be talking today with Michelle Mariscal, who is a blogger who documents her recovery and her story with living with schizophrenia. Thank you so much for talking with us today.
Michelle Mariscal: Thank you. Thank you, Rachel. It’s wonderful to be here.
Rachel Star Withers: So, tell us a little bit about you and your story, Michelle.
Michelle Mariscal: Well, there’s so much. The first voice I heard was when I was eight years old. I heard you are special. And until I got to my teenage years, I didn’t really hear anything, but I just had really crazy teenage years. And I know now that that was my prodromal stage of schizophrenia. I wanted to run away. I was suicidal. I jumped out of airplanes with a parachute, and I ran away to New York City by myself. And I lived on the streets, homeless. And I just lived a very impulsive life that only made sense to me. And nobody else could tell me anything. And that was my my years before before I met my husband, who helped calm me down. Very much so. And I became a mom. And I was actually fine when I was a mom raising my kids. They’re my everything. But then in 2006, I after I was caring for my grandma for a few years, it was just really stressful. And I think that’s what caused me to have a full-blown psychotic break in 2006, which led to being hospitalized at UCLA in 2008. And it was there that I received the diagnosis of schizophrenia. And then three months later, the fine tuning of schizoaffective disorder. But I don’t really like diagnosis.
Michelle Mariscal: It kind of labels you. I just I know I have psychosis and I know I have depression that comes and goes. After my hospitalization, I went on and got my master’s in psychology, started working. And in 2012 I felt to start a blog. And my son helped me with it. I was still having delusions at this time. I was really afraid. I was really paranoid. And I was afraid of what, what people would think about someone who had schizophrenia because of the stigma that is so attached to it. So, I wrote under a pseudonym, I came up with the name Victoria, and I’ve been blogging ever since about my recovery, which has included four hospitalizations and suicide ideation.
I’ve started working again and I’m now an editor and I’m a consultant for others with psychosis and other life problems through my blog.
Rachel Star Withers: During your past psychotic episodes, what was one of the most intense symptoms of schizophrenia that you’ve experienced?
Michelle Mariscal: Well, I thought I was on a mission and I ended up at the local supermarket and I was standing there looking at the spices, and I felt that I was supposed to buy one of every single one. I felt if I didn’t obey the voices that I was going to fall to the ground, like being just on the floor. And if I fell to the floor, then I would cause a scene. And I never want to cause a scene. I’ve never wanted to be the center of attention for anything. So, I went ahead and I bought all the spices and it was over $200.
Rachel Star Withers: The first thing that went through my mind when you said that was about the spices, I was like, Oh, no, I hope she was at the dollar store. I was like, oh, no, some spices are so expensive. I was just like, Oh dear God, if she’s at like an expensive place. Oh, no.
Michelle Mariscal: And I hope my husband never listens to this.
Rachel Star Withers: It’s like, oh, gosh, it’s so expensive, it’s all just so.
Michelle Mariscal: And it was every single one. I couldn’t leave one not purchased. It was like one of every one. That was what the voices said. And we had good food for a while. We lived off them for about a year.
Rachel Star Withers: Oh, wow.
Michelle Mariscal: It’s funny, but it’s not, you know?
Rachel Star Withers: Mm-hmm.
Michelle Mariscal: At the same time, because that was very devastating to me. Then when I went to the UCLA, they told me after three days that I did have schizophrenia. But when I first went in, they were like, No, you’re too old. You’re too this, you’re too that. And then finally, on the third day after I was laying hands on patients and just in my own world, in this mystic world of grand delusions, of grandeur, basically.
Rachel Star Withers: You’ve had a very powerful life, even just thus far. One of the things that stands out to me, though, is that you had your first symptom of some sort of serious mental disorder at age eight.
Michelle Mariscal: I know.
Rachel Star Withers: And then you weren’t diagnosed until I mean, after you, you know, were married with children.
Michelle Mariscal: I was 36 when I was diagnosed.
Rachel Star Withers: Wow.
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah.
Rachel Star Withers: I mean, that’s a long time for
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah.
Rachel Star Withers: There to first be something and then to actually receive, you know, just say, formal help. I don’t want to say how did you manage? But seriously, like, how do you think that you are able to go for so long before you were able to go to a doctor and be diagnosed?
Michelle Mariscal: I don’t know. It was just like when I became a mom, my whole focus was on my kids and I’m a grandma now. And I think that’s a big part of why I am doing so well is because I want to be well for her. She means the world to me, as do my kids. And I think I was able to do that when I was raising my kids until my grandma passed away. And it just devastated me because she was the first person I had lost in my life that I was close to. That was family. And it just devastated me. And I think that was where the psychosis came in.
Rachel Star Withers: Now, did you ever mention what was going on in your younger to teen years to anyone?
Michelle Mariscal: I couldn’t verbalize it.
Rachel Star Withers: Or was anyone suspicious?
Michelle Mariscal: My mom was. My mom knew. She. She tried to get me to see a psychologist when I was in high school. And she knew everything. Our moms somehow know things about us that we don’t even know. She knew when I was lying. She always knew. She really wanted me to get help, but I couldn’t verbalize it. I didn’t know why I was doing what I was doing or why I was so troubled. And then I turned 16. I stopped going to church and I just said F-you to everybody. And I just decided to go to New York.
Rachel Star Withers: What’s really cool about your story, Michelle, is that I think that because you went so long before being diagnosed that you really had to develop a lot of coping skills.
Michelle Mariscal: I did.
Rachel Star Withers: On your blog, you have documented a lot of these and you actually did a whole series on them. Can you share with us some of those coping skills that you have learned along the way of learning to manage your serious mental disorder?
Michelle Mariscal: Yes, it was because of COVID. I was at home like everybody, everybody else. Not special, just, you know, suffering through things. And I felt May is Mental Health Month and I started doing specials in May of 2020 on different coping ways to just regulate. And I wrote it not just for people with psychosis. I wrote it for the for the world is what I felt. My favorites are yoga and just feeling grounded with the earth and just letting the earth kind of hold me sometimes. And then walking has been a favorite thing, blogging. And just last night I was having a little bit of anxiety over doing this today, so I decided to clean and clean my kitchen. It’s like, that’s so simple, but it just having that little bit of control over something when I can’t control how I’m feeling, like that’s what works for me. Everyone has to do what feels right for them.
Rachel Star Withers: One thing I love on the post about yoga? Because I think you hear that all the time for almost anything, right? You hear that for just general wellness. You hear, Oh, you should add that. you know, almost any issue in life you’ll hear somebody mention, have you tried yoga? You know, Oh, okay.
Michelle Mariscal: I know.
Rachel Star Withers: But I love in your blog post that you actually break down what you’re talking about. Can you share with us what it is when you say yoga? Like what? What is that for you? Because I think a lot of people are like, okay, so she goes to a class and she, you know, is one of those people
Michelle Mariscal: No.
Rachel Star Withers: Probably goes to like six classes a week.
Michelle Mariscal: No, I don’t.
Rachel Star Withers: Yeah. Tell us about what it is you do.
Michelle Mariscal: I don’t like being told what to do. I get into my yoga poses sometimes throughout the day. When I take a bath, I’ll lean over and I’ll touch my feet and I’ll just feel my body move in a way that feels right for me. And sometimes it’s on my mat. But to be honest, I don’t always get on my mat. Sometimes I do it on my bed and I’ll just stretch out in a yoga position and I’ll just move my body in whatever way feels right in the moment. Sometimes it’s for 20 minutes, sometimes it’s for 2 minutes. It just grounds me to feel my body in in a stretch and holding it. And I don’t like to do the breathing because I can’t focus. I can’t. I’m not that good. But you don’t have to be good to do yoga. It’s just what feels right in the moment for me that I do. And sometimes my back will feel very tight. So I’ll just hunch over in it. And like, right now I’m doing it. I’m doing a cat position. And because my back feels a little tight because I’m talking to you tow. And it just helps me helps me to kind of ground myself, even right now.
Rachel Star Withers: And can you share with the listeners what your favorite yoga pose is?
Michelle Mariscal: Oh, the one, the corpse position where you just lay there and you just. You just feel at peace and like, I have a lot of side effects from my antipsychotics. Most of the time I have to, like, move my foot with akathisia because of one of the antipsychotics, which is so annoying half the time. And then when I’m in the corpse pose, I don’t even move my foot. I’m so connected to my, to myself when I’m in that pose that it just it just makes me feel at peace for once, which when you have schizophrenia, there’s so much of the time that you don’t have peace because of the thoughts and I hate to use the word crazy, but my husband told me the other day that he loves me because I’m crazy. So, like, that made me feel really good that he, you know, it’s not the best term to use, but in a way, my actions only make sense to me and that he appreciated that about me just made me fall in love with them all over again.
Rachel Star Withers: I particularly like the post you wrote about the yoga because I don’t think I’ve ever read another post that goes into, Oh, you should try yoga. And then it breaks down the different poses you do, but it actually goes into corpse pose. And I was like, Okay, now I’m
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah.
Rachel Star Withers: Hooked. I’ve never heard somebody say, say, Hey, let’s do yoga. We’re going to lay on the ground like we’re dead. And I don’t know, maybe, maybe because I have schizophrenia and there I’ve just I’ve heard everything. I was like, whoa, I like this. This is a little a little darker
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah.
Rachel Star Withers: Than what I’m used to hearing. That pulled me in. I kind of I just that, that that struck a chord with me. And I also think it’s such a great grounding technique.
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah. Yeah. They say that it’s the hardest pose to do, but I find it the easiest to just be dead to myself for a moment. Or maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 10 minutes. It just depends on how long it feels good. And then when I’m done, I get up and go about my day. It makes me feel like I actually have some control to just stop and to not even try to do anything. Nothing. Makes me feel right.
Rachel Star Withers: Another great coping skill that you spoke about was checking in with people, you know, staying connected with people. But you actually set a daily plan to do that. Can you tell us a little about it?
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah, I check in with my daughter every day. Even now I just send her a little text that says Morning Nana. And I put a heart and she’ll usually answer me right back. She was my main support through all the years of difficulties.
Rachel Star Withers: But I like the idea that it’s not just the general concept of, oh, I need to stay, you know, connected with people of OK, no, I’m actually going to do this specific thing every day. I’m going to send this text. And it was something simple. But to be able to set up some sort of accountability, even in just like
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah.
Rachel Star Withers: Sending a text, can make such a huge difference with people with schizophrenia.
Michelle Mariscal: It makes you feel whole to be able to reach out to someone that you know loves you and cares about you and wants the best for you. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel like you are important. And just because we have schizophrenia does not mean we’re not valid in our thoughts, our dreams, our wishes. It just it makes us more. I hate to use the word normal because what is normal, right? But it just makes us feel like we belong.
Rachel Star Withers: Another topic that you wrote about was how you know what hours the day that you’re most productive. So, you plan to do like whatever the hardest tasks that you have. You know, there’s a set time period during the day. That’s when you’ll save it for. Talk to us about that.
Michelle Mariscal: Absolutely. I come alive at five.
Rachel Star Withers: AM or PM? There’s a big difference there.
Michelle Mariscal: Yeah. PM. Oh, no. No, not AM. I am not a morning person. I never have been. Yeah, I come alive at 5 p.m. and that’s when I feel ready. I usually stay up till at least midnight and I kind of bring the new day in with whatever I’m feeling. Sometimes I blog, sometimes I sit, sometimes I do yoga.
Rachel Star Withers: Were there any other tips that you wanted to share with us?
Michelle Mariscal: Blogging has been a lifesaver, really, because I have always had the motto, like, if I could help one person through my blog, then it’s worth it. And sometimes that person I help is myself. It just helps me to get my thoughts out on. I feel like I do have an important story, but at the same time, I’m just like everybody else. I’m not special. I’m not. I’m not. I mean, I have gifts, definitely. But at the same time, I feel like what I’ve been through in my life could help others. And so, like, when I get to help other people, it makes me feel good. And I do have a time reminder at ten to blog every night, but I don’t always do it because I’m not always feeling it. I just I kind of have to feel it. And I’ve actually written over 700 blogs in since 2012 and for 2013, actually. And yeah, sometimes I go back and read my own words and I’m like, I wrote that? Yeah. It helps me sometimes when I read my past blogs.
Rachel Star Withers: Well, thank you so much for talking with us today, Michelle, and sharing with us not only just your story, but different tools on how you’ve learned to cope with your psychosis, your schizophrenia, basically how you’ve learned to grab life. And that’s like an amazing thank you so much for sharing all of this with us.
Michelle Mariscal: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Gabe Howard: Great interview, Rachel. I want to share her blog with everybody. It’s mypersonalrecoveryfromschizophrenia.wpcomstaging.com. The link is in the show notes, but once again it’s mypersonalrecoveryfromschizophrenia.comwpstaging.com. Now, Rachel, you promised us more information and I understand that you have a very important technique to share with us.
Rachel Star Withers: Yes. And we’ve talked about this one before. But I think it’s important that we talk about some specifics of this very important coping technique, and that is keeping a daily journal or diary on your schizophrenia. So not just about your life, which is great, but specifically for your schizophrenia and documenting your schizophrenia. It can help in a lot of ways. One of the most important is that it internalizes your psychosis and in a way that can make it less overwhelming. You can learn what your triggers are. It can help you find patterns, and it can help with identify how medications, lifestyle changes and therapy are actually affecting your schizophrenia. Maybe some affecting it for the better, some affecting it for the worse.
Gabe Howard: And of course, if you choose to, you can share this with your support system or your treatment team to let them know how you’re doing literally in real time.
Rachel Star Withers: If you’re if you’re somebody who has a hard time speaking up, especially at, you know, sessions with a counselor, with a doctor, you can just easily hand it to them, be like, Here, read these three pages. This is this is what’s been going on. When you are making a journal, a diary for your schizophrenia, it needs to include some specifics. Number one, how active have your hallucinations been? Be specific. Are we talking visual? Are we talking audio? What is the content? All right. Is it just like you’re hearing noises, you’re seeing kind of like I was talking about where I kept seeing figures going back and forth. But behind the door, is it that you’re hearing voices? And the voices are very malevolent and they’re saying to do bad things? Document how did you feel and how did you respond? Now, this is important, as I was talking about earlier, with the reading technique that I did, at first it was the figures were really bothering me. And then like as it kept going, I kind of just stopped caring about what was happening. They were just kind of more annoying, which I feel like is very important because you’re going to be like, Well, how are these different hallucinations affecting me at any point? Did they necessarily go away? No, but they stop bothering me.
Rachel Star Withers: Did you notice any triggers before you started your hallucinations? What other symptoms are you experiencing? So disorganized thoughts, depression? What other stuff is going on with your schizophrenia? Very important that I have found is a happiness scale or depression scale. Make a little 1 to 10 and circle where you’re at. Ten being, Hey, this is great. I’m very happy with everything with my life today. So that 1 to 10 and kind of just circle it every day and it kind of helps you track. A lot of times we don’t realize as our depression kind of spirals downward. And this is a great way to be able to flip and be like, Oh, wow, I went from a seven to a three in a week. That’s a big jump downward for me personally. That’s helped me kind of track when I am starting to deteriorate. It’s just circling a number every day and that’s a super easy thing. You can make a notepad and just every day circle where you’re at. You also want to document any thoughts of suicide or thoughts of self-harm. I want to say general dark thoughts that kind of it may not even be as extreme as self-harm or suicide, but negative thoughts towards yourself that might kind of be coming in. And take note of your current medication dosages and life changes.
Rachel Star Withers: So, if you started a new job, if someone new has entered your life and that could be a good or bad thing, you could have a new boss that’s like just horrible. How has that played on? You might notice that certain medications might make your symptoms of schizophrenia worse, certain ones might make them better, and then adjusting those. This is great because then you can show the doctors, Look, you took me up on this medication and actually my hallucinations, my depression became worse. However, when you change this other one, I’ve noticed that I became a lot happier over the following weeks. These are all very simple things, but you’ll notice like they can have a huge effect on managing your schizophrenia. If you’re a loved one out there listening, this is a really great way to be able to help the person in your life with schizophrenia, with accountability. Don’t demand that they show you their documents, their journals and whatnot, but make it clear that if they want to share that with you, you’re willing to listen, you’re willing to look. And if they want help with accountability, you can be that person.
Gabe Howard: Rachel, as promised, I thought that was a great mix of obvious coping skills, ones that people think of all the time and not so obvious coping skills, ones that people would not think up on their own. I think it’s just really powerful to remember that you can modify these in any way that you want. I’m reminded of your clapping. You don’t have to clap. You can pat your thigh, you can pat your chest, you can pat your head, you can snap your fingers. I, I really think this is something that you have to play with. And that is sort of exciting because the trial and error is part of the learning process. And I think it’s very empowering to figure out how to make these coping techniques work for you or decide if they will or won’t.
Rachel Star Withers: That’s absolutely right. Some of these coping techniques will work for you and some of them will not. And some of these probably don’t apply to your life at all or they might apply in the future. So just kind of take them and put them in your back pocket because they’re all options. Living with schizophrenia is complex and so is living with it every single day. This isn’t something that’s going to go away. I love finding a new technique for me that works, and it might stop working in the future, and then I’ll have to adjust. And that’s just life is constantly learning to adjust with living with schizophrenia. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Inside Schizophrenia. Please like share, subscribe and rate our podcast and we’ll see you next time here on Inside Schizophrenia, a Healthline Media Podcast.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Inside Schizophrenia, a podcast from Psych Central and Healthline Media. Previous episodes can be found at psychcentral.com/is or on your favorite podcast player. Your host, Rachel Star Withers, can be found online at RachelStarLive.com. Co-host Gabe Howard can be found online at gabehoward.com. Thank you and we’ll see you next time.