Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trauma in suburbia

The trauma or shock basis of schizophrenia seems to be accepted by the holistic medical community but does not get a lot of play in the mainstream medical community. In fact, no medical doctor we consulted ever raised the issue with us. What they did say was a little different. I remember being asked by two different doctors what Chris was like at the age of ten. This seemed like a strange question at the time. I was too shell-shocked myself from the diagnosis to ask them why they raised the question. So, instead I answered,"well, uh, let's see. He was overweight and into playing Magic cards. Other than that, there's not much to report. He had friends, he seemed normal".

After learning about the role of shock in schizophrenia, I reviewed Chris's childhood for signs of shock, but nothing I could think of pointed to a dramatic, isolating event. We lived in suburbia - how dramatic is that? We went to church, my husband and I hadn't divorced, Chris and his brothers attended Cub Scouts, we had neighborhood boys tearing through the house in great numbers. It seemed white bread boring compared to the kind of shock that schizophrenia produces on the radar screen.

What I do know is this: Chris was a ten month pregnancy and he barely moved in utero. That is unusual. His birth was long and difficult. He didn't have a lot of energy as a child but he also never got sick. He was abnormally healthy, almost supernaturally so. I did find it a bit strange that a child who never even had a cold developed severe acne as a teenager. Dr. Abram Hoffer observes that his patients tended never to be sick as children and that many people who subsequently develop schizophrenia had severe acne in their teenage years. (Severe acne is characteristic of pellagra, or lack of vitamin B3.)

Chris was not given to emotional outbursts and apart from crying as a baby I remember seeing him cry only once when a door slammed on his finger. He had trouble making choices and he avoided confrontation. He left it to others to choose for him. Me: "Carrots or peas, Chris?" He: "Oh, I don't care, you decide." While this was troubling, it wasn't so troubling that we thought about doing something about it. Chris was a thinker and he was musically talented. He did well in school and he had interests and activities so we overlooked this aspect of his personality, hoping that time would rectify it. I remember thinking, this kid is too perfect. Being perfect was troubling, even then. I felt we were overdue somehow for "the big one."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I have heard people comment from time to time that Chris must have suffered quite a shock over something. "Poor boy," said a homeopathic consultant, "he must have suffered quite a shock." This never made any sense to me at the time Chris was first diagnosed. Trauma to me means a car accident, the death of someone close to you, sexual abuse, or witnessing a horrific event.

The shock idea is not new in psychiatric circles. However, it is not currently fashionable in the biochemically determined model of schizophrenia. Dr. Loren Mosher , the first head of the National Institute of Mental Health Center for Studies of Schizophrenia, described psychosis as an understandable coping mechanism, very similar to shell shock, “except that the [shell-shock victim’s] trauma—the overwhelming experience—is very readily identifiable. It’s right there, easy to see. In contrast, the trauma that drives schizophrenics over the edge is not often so readily identifiable, and it is more often cumulative, rather than a single event. But often there’s a lot of things going on, and usually there’s also a trigger event—a romantic rejection, the death of a parent, an excessive involvement with recreational drugs.”

Ryke Geerd Hamer, MD, is famous and infamous in Europe for his Iron Rules of Cancer theory and the astonishing success rate he claims with terminal cancer patients. His approach grew out of a tragic event that occurred in 1978 when Dr. Hamer and his physician wife had clinical practices in Rome. Seventeen-year-old Dirk, the second of their four children, was sleeping on a boat anchored off Corsica when a bullet shot by someone on a nearby yacht lodged in him. He lingered for four months before he died in hospital in his father’s arms in December 1978. Shortly thereafter, Dr. Hamer developed testicular cancer.

Convinced that the shock of what happened to Dirk was reflected in his developing testicular cancer, Dr. Hamer became a cancer researcher. The Iron Rules of Cancer begin with what he calls a DHS, or Dirk Hamer syndrome. Every cancer or cancer-equivalent ailment begins with a severe, highly acute, dramatic, and isolating conflict-occurrence shock that registers simultaneously on three levels: in the psyche, in the brain, and in the organ. The shock registered to the brain can be photographed as concentric circles (or Hamer Herds) using computed tomography (CT). Where the Hamer Herd is located in the brain determines the theme of the conflict. By looking at the location of the Hamer Herd in the brain, it can be determined in which organ the cancer will arise and vice versa. In the case of the schizophrenic brain, according to Dr. Hamer, there are two (and sometimes three) such concentric circles, registering two (or three) shocks.

Schizophrenia was not the main focus of Dr. Hamer’s work, but reading about his theory started me thinking. I began to look at illness differently. Physical symptoms can be manifested by the mind and emotions and registered on the brain. It ties in very nicely with Dr. Masaru Emoto's work with water molecules.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Energy psychology and Emotional Freedom Technique

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) was developed by Gary Craig, a Stanford biomedical engineer and later an ordained minister. EFT is a simpler version of Thought Field Therapy (TFT), which was developed by Dr. Roger Callahan in the 1970s and is a type of energy psychology, a relatively new field within the general field of psychology.

The basis of energy psychology is the fact that our physical bodies, though appearing solid, are made up of building blocks of atoms, which emit positive and negative energy. We are, in essence, masses of energy. Illness, trauma, and our own thoughts and emotions can throw the energy out of its normally balanced state. The practice of energy psychology encompasses the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture. Acupuncture applies needles at points along the body’s meridians (energy channels) to restore the proper flow of energy. In EFT, you use your fingers to tap on these points. Like Thought Field Therapy, EFT combines the physical effects of meridian energy therapy with focusing the mind on healing the underlying problem, for example, the emotions associated with a past trauma. EFT makes the most of the theory that many physical problems are psychosomatic in origin, or put another way, energy-based.

For the purposes of EFT, the meridian points to tap are at the inner end of the eyebrow, just above the eye, on the bones under the eye, in the indentation under the nose, on the collarbones, and in several other symmetrical points on your body down to your fingertips, ending up on the nine gamut point (the part of your hand just below and between the baby and ring fingers).

As a simplified illustration of how EFT works, think of a problem you would like to overcome. Let’s assume it is a fear of spiders. We can begin by an affirmation statement that goes something like this: “Even though I am afraid of spiders, I deeply and completely love, accept, and forgive myself and I want my fear of spiders to go away.” As you say this affirmation three times, you gently rub a point on either side of your sternum with your fingers. Then, repeating the reminder phrase, e.g. fear of spiders, you tap each of the EFT points with your index and middle fingers together. Once you have reached the nine gamut point, you tap on it while continuing to focus on the problem during each of the following nine steps: (1) Close your eyes; (2) open your eyes; (3) look hard down at the floor to your right; (4) look hard down at the floor to your left; (5) roll your eyes in a complete circle, going right or left, doesn’t matter; (6) roll your eyes in a circle in the other direction; (7) hum (don’t sing the words) five seconds of a song (such as “Happy Birthday”); (8) count to five; and (9) hum (don’t sing) another five seconds of “Happy Birthday.” Stop tapping on the gamut point and take a deep breath in and out. End of round one.

EFT seems to work best for traumas and specific fears. Before you begin a round of EFT, it is advisable to rate the extent of your fear or the emotional distress associated with the trauma on a scale of one to ten, with ten representing the greater emotional response. After you do a round of EFT, retest yourself to see if your fear or distress has decreased. Continue doing EFT until the fear or distress no longer registers.

Yes, it works. Not all the time, not necessarily the first time, but it works if you keep drilling down to the core issues. One morning I woke up the day after a house guest had left. My blood pressure was sky high but I didn't know why. I was worried that I would have to go to the hospital. After two rounds of tapping that produced no relief, I hit upon the idea that my sick feelings were linked to a delayed reaction to the pressure of the visit. I tapped on that specific issue and my blood pressure returned to normal.

With schizophrenia, it is difficult to determine where the trauma lies. EFT alone will not get rid of the cluster of symptoms called schizophrenia, but can be useful in detecting and overcoming many deep rooted emotions at the base of this condition.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A short history of antipsychotics

Dr. Abram Hoffer has much to say on what happened to mental illness after the introduction of atypical antipsychotics in the 1970s. Atypical antipsychotics are the second-generation antipsychotics, which have fewer side effects than the first-generation "typical" antipsychotics introduced in the 1950s. The second-generation antipsychotics are tranquilizers that still produce side effects. With the second-generation drugs, people were fit enough to leave the hospital but not fit enough to hold down jobs. Psychiatric hospitals emptied, but the streets filled up with people unable to manage their medications or who preferred a life unmedicated to a life and and spirit controlled by medication.

Dr. Hoffer writes: "I am pleased with my medical colleagues who are quickly moving into this modern paradigm (megavitamin therapy), and am very frustrated by the massive inertia of my psychiatric colleagues who are still waiting for the Holy Grail, that new tranquilizer which appears every year, which will do for schizophrenia what insulin does for diabetes. The number of homeless chronic schizophrenics in the streets of all large American and Canadian cities is evidence of their inability to do more for them than we could do in 1950 before we had any tranquilizers. But at least then we had hospitals which provided shelter and food and some care. Today the downtown slums have become the surrogate mental hospital beds for the chronic patients whose treatment has been wholly tranquilizers."

In the United States, a 1951 amendment to the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act meant that all the new drugs produced after World War II, which included second-generation antipsychotics, as well as antidepressants and antibiotics, could only be issued by prescription.When medication became the new Holy Grail, megavitamin therapy was tossed out. It lived on in communities of adherents here and there, but their voices were drowned over the next few decades as the number of antipsychotics on the market proliferated.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Does schizophrenia need celebrity endorsement?

I am discouraged of late that schizophrenia isn't getting the press it deserves. More people (1 in a 100) have schizophrenia than autism (now 1 in 150), though autism seems to be catching up fast. Autism is a relatively recent phenomenon. The term "infantile autism" was coined by Dr. Leo Kanner in the 1930s. Schizophrenia has been around since the dawn of time.

Schizophrenia has built-in problems that might prevent it getting a full campaign à la Jenny McCarthy's with autism. Schizophrenia occurs in adults. Autism attracts attention because it happens to children (and yes, it is a devastating problem). Money pours into children's causes. Adults, let's face it, are a harder sell. Another problem: Nobody wants to admit publicly to having schizophrenia. Better to be bipolar. Bipolar seems to be enjoying a wave of popularity right now, right up there with depression. The distinctions between bipolar and schizophrenia are artificial and tend to fold into each other over time. The drugs to treat them are the same. I wasn't at all surprised to hear rumours that Britney is bipolar. Schizophrenia is a career killer. Britney is still out there and trying her best, even if she has her off days.

Where is the outrage? Schizophrenia has a natural recovery rate of 30%. Imagine that a little dedicated effort could double that rate and make recovery happen sooner. By dedicated effort I do not mean more meds. I mean less meds or no meds. My celebrity would endorse a holistic approach to health and talk openly about helping people to help themselves. My celebrity would speak about the value of vitamins, diet, family support, love, and provide a more balanced view of the role of medications than what we have been hearing up until now. I would love it if a little pill could cure our ills without creating more problems, but I gave up on that fantasy a long time ago. The real discrimination in schizophrenia is that people are not being helped to get better in bigger numbers sooner. Mentally ill people will have limited access to employment and other opportunities many of us take for granted as long as they remain mentally ill.

Jenny McCarthy was outraged. She did something about it. I read her book Louder Than Words. I was turned off at first. She throws four letter words around like rice at a wedding. This detracts from her message. But I looked past that and I realized that she was absolutely right to be outraged and to not accept the bleak prognosis her son was handed. She did her homework and she got going. So did the gay rights lobby. Back in 1973, homosexuality was dropped from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness. Psychiatrists were not at all happy about that because they still considered homosexuality a mental illness. But they could not withstand the onslaught of the gay rights movement picketing their offices and conventions. A mental illness wiped out by the stroke of a pen. The success of the gay rights lobby raises interesting questions about the nature of mental illness and of how it is determined and it shows what outrage will do.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The humor of schizophrenia

Okay, so people in the trenches don't find schizophrenia so funny. Anybody who thinks it's funny must be really sick, right? My minister, for example, cringes when I use the term "loony bin" to talk about Chris's recent incarceration. I also like the words "bin" and "nuts". They help me keep things in perspective.

The humor doesn't come from the situation, as such, but from what takes place all around it. Take Chris's psychiatrists. The male ones. I have had a huge crush on all of them. Me, a happily married woman pushing sixty who could be their mother. I think this is hysterical, especially since they all seem so personally dull. The attraction of their supposed power over someone's mind is a turn-on for me!

Then there's Dr. House. There is an episode in the eponymous television series where Dr House thinks a woman is genuinely schizophrenic. Although she isn't his patient, he shows up at her bedside to read from William Butler Yeats' poetry, and hangs onto her every utterance because he believes that she, like most schizophrenics, is really profound. He drops her like a hot potatoe when it turns out she has Wilson's disease, and therefore isn't "really" schizophrenic in his opinion. Now that's funny! (Side note: Wilson's disease is caused from dangerously high levels of copper in the body.)

Recently my husband and I had to plead our case that Chris needed to be committed to the loony bin. He was becoming quite paranoid, especially with regard to people of a darker hue and people affiliated with certain religious groups. We didn't commit him because he was paranoid. We committed him because we were exhausted by his ups and downs. "I don't like you much," he said to the dark skinned intake psychiatrist. "Well, given that you don't even know me, what exactly is it that you don't like about me?" he pointedly asked Chris, knowing, of course, what was really at the heart of Chris's statement. The psychiatrist whipped out a pink form, ticking all the necessary boxes: "Danger to himself and others", "obvious symptoms" and "not able to be accommodated elsewhere". He handed the form to Chris with a satisfied grin on his face. I thought that was very funny even at the time.

Chris has a good one. A young man was brought to the asylum where Chris is currently a patron. He was not only nuts, he had also committed a crime. After a day in the bin, he was offered a choice, prison or the bin. He chose prison. Now that's funny!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Akashic field and synchronicity

There are paranormal phenomenon related to schizophrenia, God, and physics. The Akashic field is an ancient Sanskrit term describing an ethereal library of all knowledge—thought, word, and action—that can be accessed through the subconscious mind. It houses the collection of universal truth, to which all people have access, and which all religions and shamanic traditions have acknowledged in some way. The Akashic field, also referred to as the universal mind or the word of God, shares much with Jung's collective unconscious in which everyone participates through shared inheritance, thoughts and memories, which are symbolically manifested as fairy tales, myths and fantasies.

Conventional relativity theory says that the particles have to be close together to affect each other. The concept of nonlocality is a quantum physics concept that tweaks conventional relativity theory by demonstrating that you can accurately predict how one particle is behaving by how another is behaving, and that they have a causal relationship, even though they are separated by great distances. When Chris's doctor does long-distance muscle testing on Chris, for example, she is tapping into the nonlocal library of knowledge to find the particular record that Chris has left in the collective unconscious, even though she and he are separated by a great distance.

Schizophrenia is a prime example of how the universal mind works, using another of Jung’s concepts, that of synchronicity. Synchronicity is the uncanny coincidence with which most of us are familiar. You were just thinking of someone you haven’t been in touch with for ten years, the phone rings, and it is that person on the other end of the line. One event does not cause the other. They occur because the universal mind contains both our consciousness and external events. Events reflect our conscious and vice versa because neither time nor place exists in the universal mind.

People with schizophrenia find meaningful coincidences or synchronicity everywhere. I remember heading to a Japanese restaurant with the family when Chris was sliding into psychosis. Chris was obviously impressed with the name of the restaurant, the letters of which were the first letter of each of his names, with a negation at the end. He was under the belief that the restaurant was negating or invalidating him in some way. He repeated the name of the restaurant throughout the evening, almost like a mantra.

That’s the funny thing about synchronicity. It is only meaningful to the person experiencing it. It is a non-event to others, and pretty boring to them as well. Yet when synchronicity applies to us, it is a different story. We are bemused perhaps, but not enthralled.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Energy medicine and muscle testing

The implication that human consciousness, like water molecules, can access knowledge nonlocally, across space and time, opened a new world for Chris and me. Through muscle testing we learned that Chris was allergic to wheat, dairy and eggs.

Energy medicine is one of the five sub-classifications of complementary/alternative medicine (CAM), as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a division of the National Institutes of Health. Energy medicine proposes that many illnesses of the human body can be rectified by rebalancing the out-of-balance energy fields of the human body that have caused illness in the first place. Energy medicine can be sub-divided into therapies using veritable (measurable) energy fields, such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), various kinds of laser surgery and light and sound therapy, and therapies involving putative energy fields (biofields), the subtle energy fields of the body that have so far eluded scientific measurement. Therapies in this latter category include but are not limited to Reiki, Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM), acupuncture, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), distance healing and prayer.

Applied kinesiology or "muscle testing" allows you to access all kinds of useful and accurate information about your body by asking questions that elicit a "true" or "false" (strong or weak) response by measuring your body's resistance to applied physical pressure. For example, extend one arm and hold it rigid while another person pushes down on it with two hands while posing a question that can only elicit a true of false answer. You can begin by repeating “two plus two equals four” while resisting the downward pressure on your arm. Since this is a mathematically correct statement then your muscle resistance should be strong. The statement “two plus two equals five” is false and harder for our muscles to resist. The arm will will not be able to resist the downward pressure as well as it could for a true statement. This effect will be the same even if you are asked questions in an unfamiliar language. Your body knows what is true and what isn't true even if if your conscious will tries to override it.

A person like your doctor can elicit information about you nonlocally by muscle testing. You don't even have to be in the same room or on the same continent. This can be done by making a closed circle with the thumb and pointer fingers of the left hand. Insert the thumb and pointer finger of the other hand into the circle, making sure it is a snug fit. While concentrating on the test subject and asking a specific question regarding that person’s state of health, try to force the fingers apart. A weak response (the circle broken) indicates false, a strong (unbroken circle) true. The key to doing this successfully and receiving true indicators as to what is going on is to be very specific in the question asked (e.g., Is this [name of particular substance] good or bad for the person's liver function?) and to apply consistent pressure between the fingertips and consistent force against the circled fingers while trying to force them apart.

Substances such as sugar will weaken the muscles whereas therapeutic substances will strenghthen them. This can be demonstrated by holding a small bag of sugar against the body with one hand while trying to resist downward pressure on the other arm, extended in front of you.

Thoughts and emotional stimuli produce these same responses. For example, the word “War” or “Love ” could be written without your knowlege on a piece of paper and placed in a box that you hold against your body. Or you could imagine something like your family pet. The person doing the muscle testing will know by the reaction of your muscles whether this is a positive thing for you or a negative thing.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The secret life of water molecules

In Japan, Dr. Masaru Emoto photographed the molecular changes in untreated, distilled water crystals when thoughts and words are directed at them. He placed labels on glass jars of water, with phrases such as “Thank you” or “You Fool” and left them overnight. The changes in the water crystals were amazing. Positive words created pretty, healthy-looking crystals. Negative words produced the opposite.

Both spoken and written words convey vibrational energy that is picked up by the water. In fact, everything in existence has a vibration. Dr. Emoto found that intention and prayer can influence the water structure. Distance didn’t seem to matter.

As the adult human body is more than 70 percent water, and the level of water content at birth is 90 percent, the effects of vibrational energy on the human body and mind of both positive and negative thoughts, words, and actions are staggering.

This simple, yet profound discovery has major implications when looking at illness.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why diet isn't everything

The state-of-the art research that I mentioned in my last post links many disorders such as schizophrenia, depression, autism, etc. to wheat and gluten intolerances. Chris's doctor determined that he suffers from candidiasis, a systemic overgrowth of the yeastlike fungus Candida albicans. This fungus is normally found in the intestines, but an overpopulation can occur due to a number of factors, among them weakened immunity, poor digestion, a diet high in foods that tend to foster yeast, or the use of antibiotics, which kill off essential helpful bacteria that aid in maintaining the proper balance of flora in the intestines.

Candidiasis can be a lifelong problem. It interferes with digestion and nutrient absorption, which in turn affects physical and mental health. Nutritional deficiencies further contribute to intestinal dysfunction and candidiasis. The two produce a negative feedback loop toward deteriorating mental health. Eventually the brain itself becomes overwhelmed by yeast. Various combinations of vitamins and minerals are prescribed in addition to restricting or eliminating wheat, gluten and dairy products from the diet. In addition to the wheat/gluten/dairy intolerance another widely implicated factor in schizophrenia is excess copper.

Some people have been known to recover quickly from schizophrenia by taking just supplements and changing their diet. A lot of people do not. Dr. Dietrich Klinghart, a German physician who with practices in Germany and in the United States, maintains that if schizophrenia is not cured at the physical level (level I - vitamins, herbs, nutrition, etc.) the problem most likely resides at level IV of the healing pyramid. Level IV is the intuitive level of dreams, trance, meditative states, out-of-body experiences, and the collective unconscious. Dr. Klinghardt’s five levels of healing form a healing pyramid, with the upper levels exerting a trickle-down effect on your state of physical and mental health. Healing cannot take place at a lower level if there is an unresolved issue at a higher level.

Having worked with many of the therapies discussed in Dr. Klinghardt's healing pyramid I am mindful that all the good work that vitamin and diet support can accomplish can be overruled by the mind. Until the mind is ready, the body will not follow. I have seen this recently in Chris. He was doing really well, he was no longer on medications, he was taking vitamin supplements and he was adhering to a recommended diet. We were all in shock when he started to become unravelled. His mind, I am convinced, put the brakes on further progress. He was becoming a victim of his own success. Heartened by his progress up up until then, my husband and I had begun to encourage him to go back to university full time, to develop himself further as a musician, to think in terms of possibilities. He panicked. Psychosis was his escape hatch.

Why he panicked is goes to the heart of the matter. Getting to the essence of cause is where schizophrenia begins to get really, really interesting. The trip is a long one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The tyranny of vitamins

I am still trying to figure out how Dr. Hoffer got such great results using a small amount of supplements with no recommended changes in diet (e.g. elimination of gluten and sugar) and no talk of psychotherapy. A reader has pointed out to me that Dr Hoffer does indeed recommend eliminating or restricting dairy, gluten, sugar and junk food in the diet. That is absolutely correct. However, for many years before the importance of diet became recognized in treating mental health disorders, Dr. Hoffer just carried on with his basic vitamin recommendations (and medications when necessary) and got good results.

Perhaps the most important reason that Dr. Hoffer had such success with his patients is that he believed in what he did. He encouraged his patients and their families to think that they could recover using vitamins. He used medications sparingly. Belief is everything, especially coming from a doctor. I also think he got these results because his patients didn't get side tracked by competing claims.

For the past thirty years or more we have been told that the newer (atypical) antipsychotics are better than the older (typical) antipsychotics. We have gotten further and further away from challenging whether antipsychotics are really needed in the first place. We have allowed ourselves to become managed by pharmaceuticals, but never cured. Is it possible that this same thing is happening with vitamins?

Today, vitamins are big business. They are state-of-the-art. They are well-researched, very good and adaptive. Alas, I have become immobilized through too much specialization and choice. I'm afraid of getting it wrong. For vitamin C you have a wide choice of delivery and added benefits, e.g. powder, liquid, capsule, with varying combinations of other vitamins and minerals. Buying vitamins is like ordering a coffee at Starbucks. I'd just like a regular coffee, thanks.

Chris is taking way more vitamins than Dr. Hoffer ever recommended, and he still isn't in a position to pay income tax. Here's what taking 35 supplements a day entails. The pills, powders and liquids have to be carefully measured, the pills put in packages and labeled. There is no plastic thingy big enough to hold all the pills so I put them all in paper packs, which I cut, fold, tape and label. Enough to last seven days or 21 paper packs in all. This goes on week in, week out. All the vitamins have to be shipped to our home. There is always the danger of running out. All of these vitamins, Chris's doctor has told me, are crucial to his some aspect of his functioning.

I would love to scale the vitamins back to just the Dr Hoffer basics. My husband and Chris don't seem inclined to rotate the position of chief pill dispenser. They are not as methodical as I am about the procedures involved. This is why women are entrusted with childcare, I remind them.

Believing in recovery

Many of us don't believe in recovery. We think we do, but we are often unwilling to take the necessary steps. While I am admittedly hard on doctors, doctors can only get away with what they do because they have you as a patient. You may be of the scientific persuasion, a person who reassures him/herself with facts, double-blind studies, and the latest findings in leading scientific journals. You and your doctor will no doubt be very sympatico. When your doctor tells you there is no hope, you will believe him because it fits with the kind of person you are. You will continue to take your meds and be a good patient. You are most likely very conversant with what is written in the product literature.

The technical language of psychosis is so dreary it is hard to muster any hope. Prodromal symptoms, extrapyramidal symptoms - this vocabulary is how schizophrenia is introduced to new patients and their worried relatives. A big downer. When Chris was first hospitalized five years ago, the social worker told me brightly that why, in five to 10 years time, exciting changes were foreseen. I believe she was alluding to a miracle cure. The problem was, Chris didn't have five to 10 years to wait for something that had eluded medical science for the past 100 years. He needed to start getting better immediately.

It is now over five years for Chris and I have yet to see that miracle cure, although I hear there is one underway. Nor do I expect one. It has taken me at least four years to realize that schizophrenia isn't all about the biochemistry. Your doctor believes it's all about getting the biochemistry right, though. In my experience, it's not just the doctor prescribing medications who talks almost exclusively biochemistry, it may also be the doctor who is trained in alternative, complementary medicine. An MD after the name still makes doctors think mainly in terms of biochemistry.

Like Chris's doctor who conceded initially that vitamins may not help, but they probably don't hurt, this is how most medical doctors view the psycho/spiritual side of psychosis. They give it a place, but not a big one. Then they get right back to focusing on the biochemistry. The psychiatrists who specialize in certain therapies, such as Jungian, Freudian, Adlerian, Gestalt, etc. have a much broader perspective on the mind's power to heal itself. These kinds of doctors are a luxury for many. We have also been told for the past several decades that "talk therapy" is of little help for schizophrenia.

If you are going to reach beyond a purely disease approach, become open minded to the rich tapestry of life, to writers, poets and people who think differently than your doctor does about the human condition.

Your doctor is not your friend

So, it seems simple, doesn't it? You take your vitamin and mineral supplements, and within a few weeks or a few months you are back to normal.

There are many complicating factors preventing what I thought was supposed to be a fairly straightforward thing. Chris has been taking his supplements now for four years. He definitely seems more normal, but he is still not paying income tax and neither does he seem interested in making this a goal.

If Dr. Hoffer was as successful as he was in treating patients, now fifty years on, why is schizophrenia still viewed as "chronic"? Or, more personally, why aren't you well?

I will throw out three ideas. One is your doctor. Two is you. Three is the competition. These will be discussed in separate posts. I'll begin with your doctor.

Your doctor probably doesn't believe in vitamins and may do everything he or she can to undermine your desire to introduce these into your personally designed program of total health.

Chris's psychiatrist was one such person. To be fair, the psychiatrist was part of the institution in which Chris was enrolled as a day patient. So, it wasn't necessarily the doctor who disapproved of vitamins. It was the institution that saw it as a threat to its way of doing business. The institution has a program to help young people in their twenties reintegrate back into society by giving them a focus for their day, therapeutic activities and medications. Recreational drugs were forbidden (rightly so) for those enrolled in the program but medications were not just encouraged, they were mandatory.

When naive me let the doctors know that Chris was taking vitamins, at first they said this was fine with them. They said the usual stuff like "vitamins aren't proven useful, but they are not really harmful either." When I began to notice improvements in Chris (usually I noticed the improvements - the doctors did not) I asked that Chris's medications be lowered. The stage was set for conflict. If Chris had a problem with incontinence, for example, I blamed it on the medications being too high, they blamed it on the vitamins. If Chris was more out of it than usual, the doctors said his medication needed to be raised or even changed. To this I countered, "well, since he's on medications, why is this even happening?" So then they would earnestly talk about damaged brains and the need for medications to protect the brain from further deterioration. I'm sure you have seen pictures of the damaged schizophrenic brain. It looks like a blue bicyle helmet that has had pink paint dumped on it.

One of the hardest parts of all this is having a spouse/family member who disagrees with your approach, or who may be supportive but is understandably worried about being wrong. None of us operates in a vacuum. This makes unilateral action on using vitamins challenging. The doctors and pharmaceutical companies exploit this, believe me, by terrorizing us about the damaged brain.

So, we try to work with vitamins in a climate of fear. It would have been wonderful if Chris were never on medications and if he had started on vitamins as soon as we thought something was wrong. But we didn't know about vitamins or schizophrenia at the time, and we believed the doctors when they told us that medications were not only effective, but necessary in treating schizophrenia.

There is tyranny in the vitamin approach, too. I'll save my comments on this for another day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why it is an honor to pay income tax

In the 1950s, Dr. Abram Hoffer, together with Dr. Humphrey Osmond, successfully treated hundreds of schizophrenic patients at the Saskatchewan Hospital, with supplements aimed at correcting the body’s biochemical imbalances, a treatment approach later termed “orthomolecular medicine.”

Dr. Osmond and his student Dr. John Smythies noticed that schizophrenic hallucinations are like hallucinations suffered by otherwise normal people who have taken a bad mescaline trip. Mescaline belongs to a family of psychedelic compounds known as phenethylamines. It is present in several cactus species of the American Southwest and the Andes mountain range of South America and used by native American tribes in certain religious and mystical practices. Adrenaline, which is naturally produced in the body, is similar in its properties to mescaline.

Drs. Hoffer and Osmond hypothesized that schizophrenics produce an excess amount of an amino acid similar to adrenaline (which they called “adrenochrome”); this amino acid is also produced naturally in the body. Dr. Hoffer determined that adrenochrome belongs to a different family of psychedelic compounds known as “indoles.” (LSD is an indole.) Dr Hoffer prescribed niacin in high doses to reduce adrenochrome levels. It works.

Dr. Hoffer defines recovery from schizophrenia as threefold: The person is able to function well with friends and family, is free of signs and symptoms, and is able to pay income tax.

Dr Hoffer is still in the minority of doctors and institutions who think so optimistically about schizophrenia. The standard medical opinion is that the most one can expect is managed recovery, quality of life, and part time work if any. Dr Hoffer expects more. Why are most so-called experts setting the bar so low? It surely has something to do with the word "cure". Many people shudder at the use of the word cure” in the context of schizophrenia. A cure simply means that someone with an illness has become healthy again or it can be the solution to a problem. If you rely solely on pharmaceutical solutions, curing schizophrenia is difficult, if not impossible.

Be wary of institutions that talk about ending discrimination of the mentally ill, e.g. the problem with mental illness is "stigma". No, the problem with mental illness is that people are not getting well in sufficiently large numbers. The mentally ill have been discriminated against because they haven't been seriously helped to get well. Most institutions promote mental illness as chronic and hopeless. Let's not set the bar so low. Why, for heaven’s sake, instead of celebrating people whom they seem to regard as chronically disabled, don’t these organizations say that they are dedicated to helping people with serious mental illness get over it and get on with their lives? Why not, indeed?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Orthomolecular Dr. Hoffer

Dr Abram Hoffer is the dean of orthomolecular psychiatry. He is the first, the starting point, the base, for anyone who wants to learn more about what schizophrenia is and how best to treat it using vitamin support. Orthomolecular is a term coined by Nobel laureate Dr Linus Pauling. It means "the right molecule". It is using supplemements to correct biochemical imbalances.

Dr Hoffer is still going strong at over 90 years old. I like Dr. Hoffer. I wrote him a fan letter in 2005 after Chris had been on his recommended combination of niacinimide (vitamin B3), vitamin C, B-complex, omega 3 and zinc for only a few weeks. The changes in Chris after such a short time were noticeable, despite the fact he had been on meds for over a year. He was more focused and engaged. His skin became clearer. His hair, which was becoming alarmingly thin for someone his age, became thicker.

Dr Hoffer's book, How to Live with Schizophrenia, is a must read. It is positive and upbeat, unlike some other well-known and widely quoted authorities on schizophrenia. It is loaded with good tips and really interesting observations. He respects his patients and learns from them.

I also have been faithfully using his recommended combination of vitamins since 2005. Interestingly, what works for schizophrenia also works to prevent alzheimers/dementia, according to Dr Hoffer. Here, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is the word "prevent". Once dementia begins, vitamins are ineffective. The closer in age you are to dementia (for all practical purposes in your sixties) you should substitute niacin for niacinimide. If you are in your fifties, you should begin with 3 grams of niacinimide per day and an equal amount of vitamin C (to prevent liver damage), a B complex (to make the other vitamins work more efficiently), and throw in an omega 3 and a zinc or another B vitamin (B-6, B-12). Niacin produces a burning sensation in your body. It is harmless, but nonetheless rather scary if you don't know what to expect.

I never plan to be without Dr Hoffer's recommended schizophrenia/dementia vitamins. People laughingly refer to "senior moments", but in my early fifties I was having trouble focusing. At the time I attributed it to the stress of juggling family and work responsibilities, but I feel now that my brain was tired. After only a few days on the niacinimide formula, I felt on top of my game intellectually. I could push through to complete a complex series of thoughts. I now had intellectual energy whereas before I had little. I began reading more complex books. I began to write my own book. Like Chris, my skin became amazingly clear. My hair grew back its former thickness. I was much calmer.

If you think of holistic health as a pyramid, orthomolecular medicine is the broad base of the pyramid. Proper foods, vitamins and minerals are the building blocks of good health.

Here is Dr Hoffer's vitamin package, courtesy of the Canadian Schizophrenia Foundation.

SUPPLEMENTS: Vitamin B3 (niacin or niacinamide) 0.5 – 2 grams 3 times daily. Vitamin B6 (for many) 250-500 mg daily. A general B vitamin formula. Vitamin C, 3 or more grams daily. Zinc (gluconate or citrate) 50 mg daily. Manganese 15-30 mg daily (if there is danger of tardive dyskinesia).

The list of therapies

Psychiatrists say that single events can be over-determined. Rather than there being one reason and only one reason for something happening, there can be multiple explanations for a single event. Chris's current hospitalization is not the result of a single event. The obvious explanation to the well meaning outsider is that he needed his medications.

The less obvious explanations arise from what had been happening in Chris's life over the months leading up to this crisis. Despite the vitamin support that had worked so well for him before, during and after he stopped his medications, something scary was now happening. He dropped his classes, stopped his voice lessons, rambled frequently off-topic, and tested the patience of his family and friends alike. It had all the hallmarks of a return of his psychosis. Did I mention he was angry? He started to express anger for the first time in his life. He scraped the flesh off his knuckles by driving his fist so hard into the wall.

Chris has yet to offer a definitive explanation as to why this recent crisis has happened. He does say he truly missed his younger brother Taylor, who went away to university about the same time that Chris started to change. My husband and I say that we pushed him too hard to think about returning to university full time. Our expectations likely frightened him. Other people had expectations, too. Chris's voice teacher encouraged him to fulfill his considerable potential as a vocalist. I believe that Chris is struggling with the implications of what it means to become well.

I remain convinced that this crisis is a necessary passage for Chris. He is on a more solid platform this time around and will continue to grow in health, thanks to the following:

1. Orthomolecular medicine
2. Medication, when necessary, in low doses and for short duration
3. Energy medicine/EFT/Visualizations
4. Assemblage Point shift and shamanic rituals
5. Magnetic therapy
6. Cathartic psychotherapies/e.g. Family Constellation Therapy
7. The Alexander Technique (not a therapy in the standard sense)
8. The Tomatis Method
9. Psychoacoustics and bioharmonic resonance
10. Time and understanding

In the coming days I will discuss these interventions and more.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Well meaning people

The other day a friend said to me, "Rossa, I always tell people the truth and it may not always be what they want to hear, but you know, of course, that Chris will always have problems." She went on to say that she does know one lady in her sixties who is managing very well on her medications and even was working. The point my friend wanted to put across was that Chris will have fewer problems if I accept the fact that he needs to be on medications.

My friend's comment speaks volumes. She knows that Chris is currently in the hospital and had been off medications for a year. She is well intentioned, as are all the other people who have come to me recently to say that Chris needs to be on medications. The problem is, to paraphrase Professor Harold Hill, "they don't know the territory". They have heard that medications are needed for people with schizophrenia. They haven't heard or experienced the other side of the debate. They don't even know there is a debate going on.

I didn't try to argue with my friend. I know that arguing the point would make me look like I am a mother in denial. I will just continue on my chosen path.

Yes, Chris is in the hospital. Going back into the hospital automatically means medications as the price of admission. I'm not happy about that part. However, I do not view his latest hospitalization as a failure of our holistic interventions. Nor do I see the re-emergence of his problems stemming from being off the medications. This time around the hospital is getting a better product in my son. He is communicative whereas he was almost mute the first time he was hospitalized. He is rational for the most part. He is able to express anger and pain. He is no longer overweight.

The doctors and nurses are seeing a more functional person this time around. I attribute this to the therapies undertaken over the past five years and caring enough about Chris to monitor his daily regime of vitamins and activities.

When well meaning people come to me, I thank them but just sigh and think "they don't know the territory".

Monday, April 13, 2009

Who am I? What am I here for? Why you might be interested in what I have to say.

"Who am I and what am I here for" are the fundamental questions of our existence on this planet.

I am Rossa Forbes, a pseudonym for me. I became a new me, a wiser and more focused me, when my oldest son was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. That was six years ago when "Chris" was 19. His diagnosis forced me think about many things in a different way.

My blog is for people who expect more out of recovery than what they are currently achieving.

I was naive when I started on this journey. Over time I became very critical of the medical treatment Chris was receiving when I realized he wasn't getting better, despite the huge amounts of money being spent. I expected "better". I expected "well". Doctors instead spoke about "recovery". Recovery is such a vague concept. It seems to be associated with quality of life, another term that I abhor when it comes to schizophrenia. Who wants to be spoken of in terms of "quality of life" when you are young and your whole life is ahead of you?

BS (before schizophrenia) I thought life was pretty good. I still do, but it is much more meaningful. Schizophrenia is not like other illnesses. I do not really consider it an illness, so if you are looking for advice on medications and how to deal with schizophrenia as a brain disease, this blog is not for you. I do consider schizophrenia a "problem". Something isn't working well for the individual and it is certainly a huge problem for the family members. Problems can be solved, however. They take time and effort. Nobody said this was easy. A brain disease, on the other hand, sounds final. And, of course, expensive medications are prescribed for this brain disease. These medications also have rather serious side effects.

While I hesitate to even use the term "schizophrenia" in this blog, it is useful shorthand for a collection of characteristics related to someone who is having difficulties with living.

The purpose of my blog is to do the following and more:

1. Introduce you to holistic therapies that my son underwent (I tried most of them, too.)

2. Explain why a holistic approach is better than a medication only approach. Holistic allows that low doses of medication can be useful and often necessary, but should not be considered a long term strategy.

3. Stimulate a positive and even humorous perspective about the condition

4. Encourage you to think that the expected outcome of this condition is to achieve total health

5. Demonstrate that writers, artists, poets often have a better understanding of schizophrenia than your doctor does

6. Establish a platform for the book that I am writing (feedback is most appreciated!)