Monday, November 30, 2009

The sound shaman as therapist

Chris's notes from the fourth session

Before we began the session of sound therapy, the shaman asked me how I was doing.

I explained that I had been feverish for a day prior to our meeting. We discussed the implications of this, how this is usually a sign that a change is needed in my behavior towards my body especially. He asked after my family, especially my father and brother, both away at the moment. He said that there was something I could do for my brother, but did not say what, and that I might not want to do this thing for him. These were the things I explored during the therapy, which took on a very concrete path, more understandable and clear than previously.

The shaman had moved his practice to different premises, such that instead of an airy, mystical environment it was now in a more intimate setting, smaller cosy rooms that felt more personable. There was no staring-out-windows-pretending I was a bird. Rather than playing with my surroundings, toying with the possibilities of super-grounded experience, I was able to be practically focused, to take up a larger living space and give full vent to my inner conflicts. My therapy session was like a dialogue, with my emotions expressing themselves as thoughts, which I was able to interpret because of the sounds. I got the vague sense that time was slowed down, and I could hear myself more clearly and understand my emotions better, without the implications of meaning, i.e. feelings of confusion were the “real” me, not some quest of fulfilment.

With the first set of sounds, I felt I could live inside my body with so much space, every nerve and muscle vibrated with the sounds, so that my leg felt like a wooden bat and stretched as long as the ceiling is high. My mind, usually relegated to my head and stuffed into his tiny cubicle, opened the windows on all my body and became clearer and louder. I began to cry at fleeting feelings I had for people I no longer see and some who I still see. I was not confused by fantasies of sex or violence, which I attribute this time to the therapy working, that my body was releasing judgments on these somewhat uncomfortable matters. I had recurring feelings of pain as I thought of my father and of my little brother. I have the sentiment now of guilt about these two people: I have been unwilling to accept my part in our sometimes difficult relationship. I discovered that the pain can only mean one thing: When I am hurt in a relationship the other person is hurt also, which shows affection on their part and not indifference as I often assume. With the sound therapy I can isolate problems and look at them from an exterior point of view.

Concerning how the therapy “works,” I think the success or failure of the therapy is dependent on my state of mind, and just because I wasn't getting images of sex and violence does not mean that I am somehow “cured” or need to be “cured” of thinking of these things. I am humbled to say I feel as I have no control whatsoever of the images and thoughts that come to me as I lie down at the therapy. If there is any improvement in my well-being as a result of the therapy, well it is hard to say what part I had played in it, only that I can be more or less open in mind towards the work.

Friday, November 27, 2009

The intuitive mind

In addition to counting physical objects, numbers have a spiritual meaning that resonate with us at an unconscious level, according to sixth century Greek mathematician, Pythagoras. Pythagoras also believed that colors have a spiritual meaning and are aligned with musical notes. Though separated by centuries, Pythagoras, Dr. Masaru Emoto, Dr. Alfred Tomatis and and Chris's sound shaman are speaking the language of resonance, that physical objects, colors and symbols have a vibratory energy that imbues the universe with connected meaning. Ancient peoples were much more intuitive than modern man. They sought meaning through numbers, symbols, colors, communed regularly with the gods, and looked for signs from the heavens. It doesn't sound too terribly different than people today who are given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. In Chris's reporting of his recent experience with sound therapy, he said "As I heard the colors and shapes......" This is not crazy thinking, this is intuitive thinking.

Numerology is these days considered an esoteric pursuit, but not to Pythagoras or maybe not to anyone on the autism spectrum. Some people on (or even off) the autism spectrum see colors in musical notes or numbers. Chris has always been extremely good with math and music. To be good at advanced math and music, one would assume that meaning and connectivity are seen in numbers and musical notes. Out of interest, I looked into Chris's numerology by adding up all the numbers in his birth date (month, day and four digit number for year) and kept adding until I arrived at a number less than 10, in Chris's case, the number 3.

According to career intuitive Sue Frederick, a good career choice for Chris would be actor or singer, to name just two possibilities arising from the number three. Interestingly, I seized upon acting as a way of breaking through Chris's communication barrier when his doctor hinted that Chris was really good in the clinic's acting class. Since then we have also discovered that Chris is a good singer. Numerology strikes me as good a way as any to make your career choice. Rather than tediously wading through the popular book What Color is Your Parachute?, why not make your career choice based on what Pythagoras might have chosen for you? I am putting Sue Frederick's book I See Your Dream Job under the Christmas tree this year.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Medications and power

When Ian and I met with Dr. Stern earlier this month we urged her to take Chris off Serdolect and not to substitute another antipsychotic. For once, even Ian was on my side about the Serdolect after we realized that it can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Somehow, Dr. X at the psychiatric hospital had "forgotten" to tell us about this particular side effect, probably because he had finally managed to get me to shut up about his adding a second medication on top of the Abilify. It was only after Chris went for an ECG that it dawned on me why he was having one in the first place. I didn't bother researching Serdolect's particular drawback because all antipsychotics have side effects (at least this one wasn't clozapine) and I am sick and tired of continually being on the offensive with the doctors and being on the opposite side of Ian.

I feel that with the subsequent interventions that Chris has undertaken since leaving the hospital in May (Tomatis Therapy and Sound Therapy) he has a better grip on reality and will be in stronger position than before to get off these stupid medications once and for all. He also has to be in a stronger position to make his own case with Dr. Stern. I really hate having a psychiatrist involved in what I consider our "family business," meaning Chris, Ian and I coming up with our own agreed strategy. If there were no prescription medications involved, we would only be needing Dr. Stern to act as a counselor. Prescription medications means a psychiatrist has to be involved. The psychiatrist then has gained enormous power over the decision making of the patient and family. I forgot to add that there is a second psychiatrist involved who I haven't met - the whom who prescribes the medications. This is an arrangement that we agreed upon with Dr. Stern so that she can meet with Chris without medications being the main topic of discussion. Where there is a psychiatrist, there is medication, however, because Dr. Stern needs to confer with the second psychiatrist about them.

If I think too much about this and actively intervene, I'll be headed for another round of sleepless nights. My new strategy is to trust Dr. Stern to do the right thing with Chris's fully informed consent. Dr. Stern has been remarkably open to listening to us in the past and has professed a desire to see Chris off the medications "at some point." The point where that "some point" is located is of course up to debate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The plastic brain

The concept that the brain is plastic (has the ability to change and grow) was not in vogue a mere six years ago when Chris had his breakdown. The doctors informed us very solemnly that Chris absolutely had to be on antipsychotics because otherwise his brain would deteriorate. They spoke in terms of his brain becoming rigid, like solidifying, but flawed, concrete. Ian and I were scared stiff that we had already lost precious time and that Chris would soon be little more than a vegetable if we didn't put him on meds right away. (There are valid reasons why antipsychotics may be needed for the short term.)

A person experiencing a psychotic breakdown is terrifying to the uninformed observer, to whom the symptoms must surely be evidence of brain deterioration. This is where science will rush in with neuroleptic medications to "put a stop" to the problem. Pharmacy has you in a moment of crisis and it will not let go of you. The fear of a return of symptoms and therefore a further deterioration of the brain is ever present.

But today's New York Times reports on how a dancer, who has lived with cerebral palsy for over 30 years, has improved beyond recognition through unconventional "body work" training he undertook. His choreographer specifically did not want to learn much about his condition, because that would have prejudiced any outcomes she was hoping to achieve. It is also interesting that the dancer underwent twelve years of physical therapy without getting the dramatic changes in the way he walks that the body work therapy has achieved in a year.

“Everybody told me there was nothing I could do,” he said. “That’s just what you hear, from the time you’re 5 to adulthood. Tamar gave me an option.”

Everybody tells you that schizophrenia is a chemical imbalance in the brain that will require you to take medications probably for the rest of your life. Don't believe it. There are many exciting therapies that Chris has undertaken that are changing the way we view what "the experts" tell us is a lifelong illness. Most of these therapies have not been publicized for schizophrenia.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting out in the world

I had a nice chat with Chris last night. He has decided to enter the annual race next month around our city. This is just super, on many levels. Chris is a person who I have never seen run, not even as a small boy. He just didn't run, period. (He didn't even walk until he was sixteen months old.) I hope I am not reading too much into this, but my recollection is that the day after his first sound therapy, he went out for a small run. He has been out nearly every day since. He told me at the time that he no longer wanted to stay in the house all day, he just had to get out.

His wanting to exercise is also partly the issue of the weight he had put on. I told him that the weight goes with the medications and that he shouldn't beat himself up too much over this by starving himself or thinking that exercise will fix this. At least 70% of weight loss is what you are eating, not what exercise you do. Unfortunately, the medications make it impossible not to eat. Until Chris is off his medications, weight will be a problem.

We discussed how long he should continue with the sound therapy. I believe we have only started. Chris said that he had to keep adjusting to a different reality and he didn't know if this was useful or not. So we discussed the pros and cons and then he said something very interesting. He said that after undergoing the sound therapy he was no longer afraid. I'll leave it there.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Old and wise

Sunday, I skipped church and headed to my local chapter meeting of a network that functions as "a safe haven environment for the airing of novel experiences and ideas on scientific as well as transrational, spiritual, or similar topics." In short, the group is composed of mainly older people with unusual ideas and life experiences. An out-of-body experience like Chris had is nothing new to many of the members. I sat next to a recently transgendered woman in her late fifties/early sixties, who is fitting into her new skin quite nicely, although the early stages of the transition were a bit off-putting. As I came out of the washroom and she was going in, I realized with a start that she would now be forever designated to pass through the door marked "Eve".

How did I find myself hanging out with this crowd? Well, as I too, get older and more reflective, my eyes have been opened to people who have a more elastic view of what reality means. I see these people as my guides, in the same way that Chinese people respect their elders for their wisdom accumulated over a lifetime.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The need not to panic and to stay positive

Points one and two from Tuesday's blog post were about the importance of keeping calm and being positive. While this seems self-evident, it is not. The reason why it is not, I am sorry to say, is the medical profession. Until relatives begin to view them with skepticism, as we do with lawyers, real estate agents, and financial advisors, they will control the outcome, not you.

Your doctor, as I have said elswhere in my posts, does not really believe in your relative's recovery. It is not what he or she has been trained to expect. Their expectations of a happy outcome are not transferred because they lack belief. Your relative's eventual recovery is outside the scope of their limited experience because they are mainly familiar with scientific studies usually funded by drug companies.

Pharmaceutical companies have a vested interested in keeping doctors pessimistic about their patients. Here is a recent example: "The Worldwide-Schizophrenia Outpatient Health Outcomes study (W-SOHO) was a three-year observational study designed to assess costs and outcomes in outpatients using antipsychotics" says lead author Dr Jamie Karagianis from Eli Lilly Canada Inc. "On average, 19% were in paid employment, 69% were living in dependent housing and 62% had reported sexual problems in the previous month." Hmmn, this to me implies that there is a causal link between being on medications, living in dependent housing and having sexual problems. Your doctor will not see it in this light. He will only think that this scenario is a typical outcome of schizophrenia while perhaps offering to prescribe a new medication for sexual problems. The job of getting out from under this dismal scenario falls to you.

Just about everything, not just schizophrenia, is outside the scope of your doctor's experience, so for the really big medical scares of our day and age, if you are planning to survive and thrive, be prepared to reject just about everything the doctor has to say or to convey about your prospects.

Source: Wily-Blackwell news release

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Niacin prevents Alzheimer's disease

I have been exchanging a flurry of e-mails with my older sister over the past few days. Since my mother developed the signs of dementia/Alzheimer's (does it really matter which?) in her late seventies, her three daughters have been understandably concerned about preventing it.

I first learned about prevention of dementia from Dr. Abram Hoffer. He experienced great success with his own mother and went on to recommend it for other members of his family, none of whom developed dementia. I immediately started on the same combination of vitamins that Dr. Hoffer recommends for schizophrenia. I felt there was a connection between my mother's dementia and Chris's schizophrenia. Both are related to the nervous system.

I saw dramatic results within three days. These results have stayed with me. I am faithful to my daily regime of 3 grams Vitamin B3, 3 grams vitamin C, 3 B complex tablets, omega 3 and zinc.

Dramatic results:

1. Sharp, focused thinking
2. Improved skin
3. Thicker hair

Dr. Hoffer advises that you reverse dementia if you catch its early signs, which he did with his mother, but that once dementia has set in, there is no turning back the symptoms. He also advises that if you begin the regime in your sixties, you need straight niacin, not niacinimide or flushless niacin.

Here's an interesting background story on niacin preventing Alzheimer's disease from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, dated December 9, 2008 I urge you to read it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Teach them to swim

Joseph Campbell's famous quotation that the schizophrenic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight has been passed around for generations as profound "wisdom" and therefore not challenged. To me, this quote leaves people with the impression that the schizophrenic is a write-off as a functioning human being, while in contrast, the mystic, with whom he has much in common is, well, a great and glorious mystic.

The schizophrenic has all the ingredients of a mystic/poet/writer/musician, he just needs help getting there. Teach him to swim in the mystic waters. Support his interests, don't put them down. Encourage greatness in him. Don't insist on conformity to our very limited appreciation for who is worthy and who is not.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

If I knew then what I know now . . .

Here are my top eleven ideas for helping a relative to heal. It's all about attitude.

1. Do not panic!

2. Accept only positive perspectives.

3. Be open minded to other ways of thinking.

4. Change your belief system.

5. You are an advocate for your relative, not the doctor's cheerleader.

6. Your relative is not chronic; the interventions that have been tried so far are a failure. Try something different.

7. Spread your eggs over many baskets.

8. Your relative is not brain-diseased, but is reacting this way for a reason. Be empathetic. Hold his or her hand and say "I understand you are angry/afraid/whatever and you have every right to be." You don't know why, at this point, so don't probe, just be there and be sympathetic and keep your mouth closed.

9. Indulge in self-examination.

10. This is a crisis only. There is an opportunity here for you and your relative to grow.

11. Beware declaring victory too soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Myths are public dreams, dreams are private myths*

Chris's notes on his second out-of-body experience induced by sound

"It's almost impossible not to see as though nothing's changed since the last sound therapy. I could pretend that I've reached Nirvana but I'm seeing everything the way I always have, no psychedelic colors or even levitation or lightness. I believed I could leave my worldly attachments behind, but the difference has been in what I don't see and especially don't hear anymore. I can hear myself and see myself, and this has made me wiser. I will try to explain. It will be difficult.

During the color therapy, I saw vivid images of various scenes with various people, and I was in them too, but with a difference. I saw scenes in which I have pictured or even wanted myself to be in; they were anything from choosing what to wear in the morning to having sex with someone I've felt attracted to, to participating in a Nazi party rally! As it was explained to me later which I only perceived at the time, my insecurity with these images, often grotesque and violent, was rooted in the fact that I was really an observer. I placed expectations on the outcomes of each of the dramas, and with the sound therapy I was transported to each of these dramas, which were rooted in some subconscious fantasy from God knows what. As I heard the colors and shapes, I could see that my “mind” had been tricking me; or rather my body which was wanting to make my mind believe that my feelings were my body, were somehow inferior to the form of a beast which I had allowed my body to become. Indeed, having sex I could see that it was not sex but rape to my mind, and at the Nazi rally I felt a tingle in my arm as I raised it in a salute! I say only this for myself and no-one else, but what my intellect knows is “true” and horrible only exists because of the corrupt nature of my own body, and my belief in human failings.

Afterwards, the sound shaman sat me down to chat about the experience, which I needed because of wanting to understand my experience and what went on. I don't remember everything he said to me, but I believe that it was said that in those “fantasies” was my true self, i.e. my physical manifestation that I've built up in the mirror is partly false and a deception. I believe that when I've chosen to follow an abstract goal, committing intellectually, emotionally and physically but without a true purpose then a split was caused in my being which is why I haven't been able to find a true calling yet."
*Joseph Campbell

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Heightened consciousness

Note from the sound shaman

"Unfortunately, modern psychotherapy continues to view the human mind as if it were simply a result of chemical processes in the brain. This viewpoint, in my opinion, could not be further from the actual truth. While our thoughts are made manifest by the "mechanical" action of our brain, our "mind" and our "emotions" are quite something else. We can measure the electrical changes in the body - the torso, the arms, the legs - when we think and emote. Thus, the action of thought and emotion affects our entire body system. Our thoughts and emotions are interpreted by our mind, and are generally reactions to some form of external stimuli such as sounds, images, scents, etc. It is our perception of these signals that forms the images, feelings and connections to short and long term memories.

Our western perspective on perception has forgotten, or simply ignores, a very important "reality" which is that there are other equally valid, if not somewhat uncommon, or misunderstood experiences and "perceptions" of the world around us. In ancient cultures, and with most indigenous peoples, the understanding of the world is augmented through "heightened consciousness" or "expanded perceptive abilities". To reach these levels of "super consciousness", cultures have applied various rituals and practices: meditation, chant, dance, sensory deprivation, the ingestion of plant and animal substances, etc. Through many years of training, practice, patience, and experience, the monks, sages, shamans, masters, are able to reach a level of awareness and perceptual experience, that under the microscope of modern psychoanalysis many experts would consider abnormally psychotic. In so doing, our modern society is losing (or has already lost), an opportunity, as well as a willingness to understand the true essence of who we, as human beings, really are."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holistic explanation of an out-of-body experience produced by sounds

I am publishing an e-mail (below) that I received from the sound shaman about Chris's out-of-body experience while undergoing sound therapy. It is interesting how postively this is viewed by practitioners and adherents of "mysticism" (for lack of a better word) in comparison to traditional psychiatry, for which out-of-body experiences are thought to be destabilizing, particularly for someone with a mental illness diagnosis. I broached the subject last night at dinner with my dream analyst friend Val. She was very enthusiastic about Chris's OBE and felt that it was absolutely healing.

Long ago I identified the body/mind integration as essential for Chris's healing, but have been frustrated by not being able to find enough therapies that address this so directly. The assemblage point shift was important in this respect. Tomatis also is directed to integrating the person with the environment. I have been looking for something that potentially works faster than psychotherapy, which can take years. The goal is to feel emotionally integrated with the environment. In this respect, the Family Constellation Therapy that we undertook with Dr. Stern also fills the bill emotionally.

Note from the sound shaman
"Chris had a very interesting experience. I am very pleased as this is exactly the purpose and effect of the sounds - to expand our perception of the body and who we really are. The mind (thoughts) and the body (movement and emotions) produce changes in our electric field. The sounds - which have no specific reference in our mind (sounds that we have never heard before and so have no link to specific memories) - are perceived in the moment. Each sound is the actual vibration of light (i.e. specific colours). Our emotional system is not disturbed as the information contained in these sounds, and thus the processing work load required by the brain, is based on the natural vibration of light - slowed down by many octaves."

Monday, November 9, 2009

Some sing low and some sing higher

I continue to mull over the events of the last few days. Chris and I both underwent sound therapy last Thursday, but my experience wasn't nearly so dramatic. I could tell from the new way the sound was mixed, that I was being coaxed towards a deep meditative state. I almost got there, I could see how close I was to leaving my earthly baggage behind, but I got scared and refused to go any further. Maybe next time. Probably next time. I see the logic of release.

Recalling Dr. Stern's clear alarm about Chris's out-of-body experience and lucid dreaming, I have to smile. While I fumbled around to try to convince her that this was an all round good experience, I brought up the fact that Chris was also in the church choir, which so far nobody has questioned as being detrimental to his mental health. I told Dr. Stern that high church music whips people into a passion of ecstasy and abandonment to the Holy Spirit. This seems to me to be the opposite of grounding. "You know, Dr. Stern, I always say that the closer to the altar you get, the higher strung the people are. Who's closest to the altar? The priest, the rabbi or the minister and the choir. In my experience, there is a higher proportion of "not regular folk" in this population compared to the population at large. I sometimes think it would be a good idea if Chris had more opportunities to split rocks and less time to spend hanging around the choir. "

Dr. Stern looked rather stunned at my layman's view of things. But think of it. In many ways it might be a good idea if Chris didn't spend so much time hanging around the church, reading his Bible, and wearing choir robes. It mimics the psychotic behavior that we are trying to eliminate. Going to church may exacerbate mental illness!

I am not about to suggest to Chris that he drop choir, as it's the first activity that he chose to resume after he got out of hospital. Playing the ball as it lies I assume that choir must be good for Chris, despite all of the reservations I have expressed. He is who he is, and he's all about music. The church choir is a counter-intuitive activity to engage in, just as having an out-of-body experience is counter-intuitive to becoming grounded as most of us understand the concept - More African drums - less Mozart! Maybe, there is another way to look at it. Maybe we have been looking in all the wrong places, telling people to do certain things for good mental health, when we should have been telling them the opposite. I recently heard about a study on sugar's effect on children, and guess what - the study concluded that sugar does not increase hyperactivity in children. I give up. How does anyone know what to do for good health when faced with contradictory evidence?

You go with your intuition and ignore all the noise.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Man and Superman

For the many people who cling to the notion that schizophrenia is a brain disease, I wonder how come writers spend so much time on the subject of schizophrenia as an archetypal struggle for survival and growth? Cancer and diabetes don't get the same literary star treatment.

Today's thought has been brought to me by my office colleague, Bruce, who handed me an article about the book The Denial of Death, from where else? - Wikipedia. The book was written in 1973 by Ernest Becker, who died a year following its publication. Even he could only deny death for so long!

The Denial of Death postulates that civilization is engaged in an elaborate symbolic defense mechanism against our own mortality which is linked to our survival mechanism. Man has a dualistic nature, on the one hand, the physical which death releases, and on the other, the symbolic world of meaning. The tension between these two natures can be overcome by becoming "heroic" as a way of circumventing death.

"From this premise," Ernest Becker argues, "mental illness is most insightfully extrapolated as a bogging down in one's hero system(s)."

What part of the so-called diseased brain deals with a "bogging down in one's hero system(s)", I ask? Try as many scientists do to find an elusive gene or a pill that controls the impulse to be heroic and to act in one's own elaborate mythology, it hasn't happened. Yet, writers persist in linking schizophrenia and depression to this heroic survival instinct.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Going where nobody else is headed has its drawbacks

Yesterday evening, Ian and I had our quarterly meeting with Dr. Stern, Chris's psychiatrist. We hadn't had a chance to meet since Chris was released from the hospital in May. We spoke about his overall good progress, how Ian and I were pleased to have him home with us and how we are content to let things unfold at the pace Chris was setting. Then Dr. Stern dropped the bombshell. She leaned forward, and in a clearly worried voice, said "what's this about Chris having an out-of-body experience? Chris's occupational therapist told me about this and she also told me about a lucid dream."

It has been my policy all along not to tell Chris's psychiatrists about what outwardly kooky looking things he is undertaking in the world of holistic healing. I have learned, as this experience shows, that it only worries them and they want to put a stop to it.

Most, if not all, psychiatrists would not want their schizophrenia patients having an OBE, because to them, it is exactly what you don't want them to have. Dr. Stern said she wanted Chris "in" his body and grounded, not out-of-his body and floating in space looking down at himself. It is exactly the sensible sort of thing a cautious psychiatrist should say, except that what has changed is that energy medicine has opened up a whole other realm of healing possibilities. I tried to handle this as best I could, knowing that Chris and I were headed to the sound shaman the next day for another go at it.

I tried to reassure Dr. Stern that actually, the meditative state that he achieved was a grounding state, not an excitatory state. I told her that an OBE for someone with a history of psychosis was actually a good thing, but it was counter-intuitive, because most people would think an out-of-body experience can lead to the person becoming destabilized and this was not in fact what was happening. Please note that this way of thinking is not only not widely shared, but not widely known. There's me, and there's the sound shaman, and beyond the two of us, who else knows about this counter-intuitive way of looking at schizophrenia? There must be a secret society somewhere, or maybe this is well-known in Eastern mysticism, but with Chris's Western diagnosis of schizophrenia I was treading on very thin ice with Dr. Stern. Come to think of it, Western medical diagnoses are not included in Eastern mysticism texts.

Do you do yoga, Dr. Stern? I enquired brightly. "Keep in mind that yoga is used in many programs for schizophrenia patients." Dr. Stern was more inclined to feel that yoga was more of a physical workout than a mental one, and that deep meditation is not something recommended for someone like Chris. Dr. Stern is a good psychiatrist and an excellent Family Constellation psychiatrist, but she is not a yoga person, nor all that familiar with energy medicine. Dr. Stern doesn't "do" energy medicine, and this is where it gets tricky with a psychiatrist. What I am doing with Chris is clearly out of most traditional psychiatrists' comfort zones. I only later thought about Chris's former holistic psychiatrist, who taught us about energy medicine and got Chris to practice visualizations. Where is the line drawn between lucid dreaming and say, visualizing you are a shining ball of light in space with giant meteorites bouncing off you?

The out-of-body experience and the lucid dreaming were all news to Ian, who thankfully didn't jump in and punch the air with "let's put a stop to all this nonsense now!" I told Dr. Stern that lucid dreaming was something Chris does and it didn't start recently. I was praying hard that the session would soon be over. I needed more information from the shaman to bolster my weak case in Dr. Stern's eyes. "I understand your concerns, Dr. Stern, and if I were you I would feel the same way. I will look into this some more and share further information with you." Inside me, I am really just hoping that all this will not be raised again.

When it was time to leave, I excused myself to make a phone call from Dr. Stern's inner office. As I entered, I noticed a large jagged quartz crystal on top of the table near the door. Now, what was that there for if she is not a proponent of energy medicine and the healing power of gemstones and vibrations? Is this just a decoration that psychiatrists put in their offices now to show solidarity with the holistic crowd in the same way all companies claim they are eco-friendly? Or, is it just a nice decoration with no other meaning? All of this I ponder.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

How do you feel about this?

According to yesterday's New York Times,* Aspergers syndrome is proposed to be struck from the next edition of the DSM, due out in 2012, in favor of the term "autism spectrum disorder." I suggest that the DSM editorial board hit the delete button and do the same thing for schizophrenia, in favor of a more nuanced perspective, as appears to be the case with the jettisoning of the Aspergers' label. The DSM proposed change recognizes that there are different levels of functioning within autism, and that there are often other accompanying health problems that need to be treated.

This is a step forward, at least. Why not extend the same courtesy to schizophrenia, which seems to be on the bipolar, depression, mania, OCD spectrum? Although I am most definitely not in favor of saddling anyone with a psychiatric diagnosis, taking on the likes of the American Psychiatric Association, publisher of the DSM, will have to be chipped away at over time. What exactly is the difference between Aspergers, which can be terribly taxing on the individual and the family, especially when the child is young, and schizophrenia, which often allows a trouble free childhood and academic success, often brilliance, but provokes a major crisis in the adolescent years and early twenties? Well, for one, Aspergers is a recent addition to the DSM (1994) and it is easy to give up something you haven't become entrenched in. (I had actually never even heard of it until my son was diagnosed with schizophrenia.) Schizophrenia, in contrast, functions as both the the holy grail and cash cow of the mental health industry. Wait, no, I take that back about the holy grail part. The APA and pharmacology aren't interested in curing schizophrenia. It's too much of a cash cow. They just pretend they are interested.

“Asperger’s means a lot of different things to different people,” Dr. Catherine Lord is quoted as saying. “It’s confusing and not terribly useful.” (I say the same goes for schizophrenia.)

The New York Times article quotes the efforts of the Aspergers' lobby to widen the understanding of Aspergers to include health issues that accompany this diagnosis. The autism lobby has done an excellent job of bringing the message to the psychiatric community that there are underlying health issues that can be addressed, very often successfully. Many people say exactly the same thing about schizophrenia. I won't quibble about deleting one more meaningless diagnosis in the DSM, but while they are at it, they should treat schizophrenia in the same way.

Unfortunately, the diagnosis of schizophrenia is too big a diagnosis for the APA to relinquish. That they will hit the delete button for schizophrenia is unlikely, given that the latest APA news to be posted on its site is "Brain MRI May Pinpoint High Psychosis Risk." Nonetheless, let's keep in mind that the gay rights lobby forced it to delete homosexuality from the DSM in the early 1970s. It can be done.

It can be done, were it not for the fact that the public seems to have bought the APA's and NAMI's negative view of schizophrenia. There is no powerful lobby for schizophrenia taking the same position that the autism lobby has succeeded in doing. This means that the battle to normalize schizophrenia on the spectrum of human conditions and delete it from the 2012 DSM is lost before it has begun due to a lack of organized opposition to the prevailing viewpoint.

"All interested parties will have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed changes. The American Psychiatric Association is expected to post the working group’s final proposal on autism diagnostic criteria on the diagnostic manual’s Web site in January and invite comment from the public."

Mark your calendar for January 2010 and let them know that Aspergers isn't the only meaningless label. Here's the APA's website address.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Chris's second visit to the sound shaman

"I was in a good mood that day and was happy to head out into the country. I was well rested and alert, but was slightly irritable, perhaps at the memory of our first trip out where we were delayed and nearly had to turn back. Having already undergone the therapy once before, I knew how it mattered that I be attentive but relaxed, to keep my body open, because this time around I had the tendency to become somewhat passive, which spoils the therapy as it works on the mind especially, and I think partly through the mind then the body.

The therapy lasted less than one hour, but I felt many changes. I tried to dissociate better my feelings about a color, red or green say, and allow the color to dominate my perception with as little judgment as possible. There were flies in the room, which at first I found irritating but later I found this a silly reaction to have, after I became more present in the room. The “sound/colors” themselves aren't like anything else you're likely to hear, because they're pure sounds, they're as natural as breathing. Once you hear them they take up the room. Listening to a color is much different from listening to Mozart; it's the difference that having an author makes to the sound, as you follow music in Mozart but hearing the color red for example is like a mosquito bite and not “interesting” per se.

However, I began to fall into a sort of trance, which wasn't quite sleep, or it was rather an aware sort of sleep that instead of relaxing into my body and dreaming I left my body and begun to experience the room while my body “powered down.” First I began to say to myself, this is just a sound, a basic unrefined sound but just a noise really and then my head refused to make any noise, any comment or utter any “thoughts” as I was released into the space or “aura” around me. I could see my body lying down from four feet away in any direction, and it was the best impression or image of myself that I've found in a long time, better than any mirror image can give. Those flies which I found irritating I realized were in harmony with my feelings of irritability which I had carried in with me, and I could fly around the room as if the flies were part of me. The only pain I felt was at the head level, when I could see that a big dark block at my head masked or obstructed this free flow of energy I experienced. To stand up in that state would have been impossible. Just as I was about to fall asleep the music stopped and it was time to go.

The sound technician explained that adepts at yoga, monks or shaman masters train for years to enter such a state, and that I was very lucky to enjoy it so early. That night I slept soundly and experienced a lucid dream in the morning, but this one was much clearer and longer than any I had previously experienced. The dream was pure fantasy or very close; actually it took the form of an episode of The Simpsons! I had been thinking about skiing the night before, and in this dream the Simpson family went skiing high up in the mountains, and Bart and Lisa got involved in the dangers and thrills of racing and jumping. When I felt scared at the outcome, and the dangers posed to the characters was too great, the story changed, based on my emotions. I suddenly had the power to create a dream and change it based on my emotions. The next day as I was reading on my bed in the afternoon I saw a woman wearing white enter the room and tap me on the shoulder, I could feel the touch but the woman I didn't know, it was still a dream. My head was telling me to get off the bed and do something else, and here was this woman who appeared also compelling me to get up.

However, I don't believe that this “awareness” the therapy opens within me should be relied on as a permanent change. There are many habits built into me that must be recognized first if I want to avoid becoming a “ghost” that just reacts to every little breeze or stimulus. From a personal point of view, emotion is more important or as important for a person, but mind can increase awareness and therefore enrich the emotional experience. The therapy has made me more aware of the physical manifestations of mental blocks: My head was quite unwilling to leave this form and it stayed there, while my body which has been through countless ordeals was more flexible. It's interesting to know just how much my body has priority over my head, the sounds reaching all my cells without interference from my mind. The next step would be to train my mind to listen to my body first before the noise of the outside world, and to calm the tensions existing in the body which cause the mind to have fear and to shut down."

Monday, November 2, 2009


"Phonons are the tiniest particles of sound. Phonons are to sound as photons are to light. It takes billions of phonons to make up a sound. Phonons oscillate, echo, reverberate etc. at the sub atomic level in the quantum soup." -Pauline Oliveros*

It takes Pauline Oliveros, a musician, to explain a complex subject (phonons) in a simple, straightforward manner. I am not allowing my complete ignorance of physics and phonons to deter me from feeling that the sub-atomic level of sound is where schizophrenia can be healed. Browsing the web has turned up an article from the European Society for Pigment Cell Research, of all places, linking schizophrenia to phonon activity.

According to our shaman of sound, phonons are a relatively recent discovery and the Big Bang actually lasted, best scientific guess at the moment, 300,000 years. That's pretty darn close to a hundred thousand times pi. (Martin A. Armstrong take note!)

I don't plan to wait for the phonon-related blockbuster drug that might emerge in twenty years or so. (A new drug "Fanapt" that works on a "more relevant set of neurotransmitter receptors" as the company describes it, will be on the market in 2010.**) Chris and I are getting to work now in the relaxed offices of shamanic healers and therapists who understand that to be of "sound mind and body" means paying attention to the vibrations of sound and emotions.

*Pauline Oliveros is a musician who has developed a theory called "sonic" awareness, which is a focused musical and environmental consciousness.
***See also