Sunday, October 31, 2010

The universe, the flea market, the zone

I'm stuck on the revision of the next chapter to my book to post at authonomy. I'm trying to write about why I believe that the experience of schizophrenia is particularly relevant to the Big Bang. There are a lot of dots to connect. The chapter attempts to link sub-atomic molecular vibrations, the Fibonnaci number sequence, the experience of sychronicity; a big task for an art history major. Will I have it all figured out and peer-reviewed by the time the next round of nominations for the Nobel Prize takes place?

While I pondered the meaning of the universe, Chris got up early and went to choir. There's a guest preacher today from Haiti. I'm sitting this one out. I'm not prepared to sit through a two hour church service; I know what happens when there is a guest in the pulpit. The church service almost doubles in length! I'm becoming more of a Buddhist in outlook these days thanks to Chris. (Also a quantum physicist, hahah.)

Ian and I went, instead, to the flea market. I said Ian can come with me if he doesn't buy the first thing he sees and announce that we're done.  Men don't shop like women. They think the point is to go, find what you want immediately, pay the full price and go home. Mission accomplished.

Chris sang in a benefit concert for Haiti last night. He's looking good these days; got himself a second hand suit for the concert and fussed over the tie he would wear. He's trying hard to be more of a personality around people. We've talked about "the zone." I explained to him that, rather than zoning out and standing apart from people, which makes all of us uncomfortable, he's got to enter their zone. He can stick his hand out or poke his face near someone else's to introduce himself.

He's entitled to invade their space and he has to start by noticing people not in his own zone, I tell him. Chris is taking this all very good-naturedly. For his entire life he has shown up without being noticed, like a ghost. You just turn around and there he is. Not a sound is made. Over the past few days, when he arrives home, he has taken to announcing himself in a booming voice (for him) "Hi, it's Chris." He is actively working on "the zone."

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Instructions for reading my book at authonomy

My manuscript is now available on authonomy at this location.

Go to the side panel on the right and click on "Read the book." The book will be displayed chapter by chapter. There is a table of contents at the beginning that gives you a better idea of what is happening in each chapter. It's okay if you just want to pick off the chapters that appeal to you.  You cannot download the book. It must be read on-line.

You are entering a construction zone because the book is not fully uploaded and I make daily changes to it. It still needs editing and a major revision of at least one chapter toward the end. My editor has told me this; I just haven't had time to do it. I have changed my thinking in some instances and when I go back to rewrite, I will phrase certain things differently.

If you would like to tell your friends about my book, here's how I would pitch it to pique their interest:

1) I'm a mother writing about her son's diagnosis of schizophrenia. There are very few mothers (I can think of one only) who have published a book about this sensitive subject.

2) I'm a parent who objects to the current biochemically-driven model of schizophrenia and other so-called mental illnesses. This pits me against the majority of family members and the public-at-large who have gone along with the idea of mental illness as a brain disease. The time is ripe for challenging this view, especially when this criticism is coming from a parent.

3) This book discusses a lot of unusual holistic therapies and helpful attitudes that the family members can adopt that should be better known to the general public. I describe the therapies and the improvements that I saw in Chris that I attribute to the therapies undertaken.

I'd be delighted if you read the book and I welcome your feedback. You don't even have to tell me that you've read it or even bother to read it. I don't keep a list. If you'd like to comment or push the book to the attention of the greater authonomy community, you'll have to register. It's quick and you don't have to be a writer yourself, but it helps if you like to read and comment on others' manuscripts. My goal is to generate more support for the position that you and I share about so-called mental illness. Invariably that means a published book.

authonomy says:
Attracting external readership can really boost your visibility on the site. So if you already have champions from outside the authonomy community – whether that’s family, friends, colleagues or visitors to your blog, facebook profile or other website, you might also encourage them to join the site and get involved. If they can prove their credentials to the community by building their talent spotter rank, then they'll be in a position to be noticed and in turn help you raise the profile of your book.

Please forward, tweet or retweet this post to your friends to let them know that there is a growing number of parents who are refusing to go along with the biochemically driven model of mental illness.

If you have problems viewing the book, please let me know.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Schizophrenia and numerology

What do numerology and schizophrenia have in common? Synchronicity! The New York Times article says that everyday people are using their lucky numbers in a variety of profitable ways, from setting a marriage date to buying an apartment. The difference between what they are doing and your natural skill is that psychiatry dismisses your synchronity as psychosis. You may ask your shrink, "So if everyday people in certain cultures believe in it, why am I labeled psychotic?"

You might also like I see your dream job and The intuitive mind.

Sometimes, Lucky Numbers Add Up to Apartment Sales, New York Times, October 22, 2010

Hope versus expectation

We all know how badly most psychiatry does "hope," especially for those with a "serious mental illness" label. They speak about the person in hushed tones, as if he or she has already died. They talk about quality of life (what a downer) and social assistance (another downer). This rubs off on the parents and anybody else who is supposed to somehow wake up every day and put on their party face for their relative.

The word "hope" can also sound negative to sensitive types like me. It can sound like the person saying it is struggling with the doubt that hope is only a remote possibility for some but not for all ("There's always hope!")

Why don't we substitute the word "expectation" for "hope," as in "You are fully expected to get well." This is not at all far fetched, judging from all the people I've been meeting on this blog and reading about elsewhere, who got well. Many of them say that what kept them unwell for quite a while was in part lack of hope and the diminished expectations of those around them.

"Expect" rather than just "hope."

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

My book will soon be available

I've been fiddling around for the past few days uploading my manuscript chapter by chapter onto the authonomy website. Authonomy is HarperCollins website where authors can test drive their manuscripts and get and give feedback. My partial manuscript was barely up before people started backing my book. Most would-be authors seem only too willing to back your book almost sight unseen as long as you will back theirs. "I LOVED your book" rings a little hollow under these circumstances. None-the-less, my motives for placing my book on this site are pure. It's a free book, which anyone can read (you, too), which I hope inspires others to challenge the medical status quo when it comes to a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I'll post more information about how you can access it once I get the book fully uploaded . It still needs editing, but after five years and multiple edits, it's time the gestation period came to an end.

Friday, October 22, 2010

MindFreedom Victory

VICTORY: MFI Alerts Help Win on Federal Agency's Web Forum

It's over. We won. Today, Friday, 22 October 2010, 5 pm EST was the deadline. And after the dust settled... After a last-minute campaign that temporarily pushed forced outpatient psychiatric drugging to the top of a USA forum about federal mental health goals... Enough of you 'voted' on the web to support the voice of mental health consumer/survivors... Challenge psychiatric drug industry undue power... And support more non-drug alternatives! [Update 9]

MindFreedom International News Update 9 - Friday, 22 Oct. 2010, 6:30 pm EDT

Involuntary Transformation: What is Advocacy?

Involuntary Transformation: What is Advocacy?: "I am a former user of the mental health system and the parent of 2 sons, my youngest son has needed a high level of mental health services s..."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How to stop psychosis

I got permission from Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds, to reprint her post in its entirety. This is a must read for anyone who has just been told they are certifiably crazy, and for those who are there to remind them that they are. (Please send this to a medical student you may know.)

Listening to Psychosis (or other forms of mental anguish)

April 6, 2007

by giannakali

Knowing what I know now about outcomes for schizophrenics, or people experiencing delusions, who are listened to, who are not told their delusions are crazy or wrong–that many of these people who are taken seriously recover, I often wonder what would have happened had someone listened to my (drug-induced) delusions. If it had not been assumed I was crazy–if I had not been coerced into believing I was crazy. What would have happened if I was taken seriously? I will never know, but there is plenty of evidence that had I been listened to and had my psychotic thinking been explored with respect I may have never entered the world of psychiatric care as we now know it. I again remind you of Soteria House.

I might add, that I finally, took myself seriously. Stopped dismissing the “crazy” for meaningless. That was when my healing began.

Below is a story of a woman, not terribly different than me. In fact we shared a common delusion. We were both to be the mother of the second coming of Christ. She was 18, I was 19. She was listened to by a kind clinician and released from the hospital vastly improved. I was belittled, and humiliated and drugged into a stupor. The rest is history.

Here is an account of the story as told by Al Seibert, Ph.D:

When I was a staff psychologist at a neuropsychiatric institute in 1965, I conducted an experimental interview with an 18-year-old woman diagnosed as “acute paranoid schizophrenic.” I’d been influenced by the writings of Carl Jung, Thomas Szasz, and Ayn Rand, and was puzzled about methods for training psychiatric residents that are unreported in the literature. I prepared for the interview by asking myself questions. I wondered what would happen if I listened to the woman as a friend, avoided letting my mind diagnose her, and questioned her to see if there was a link between events in her life and her feelings of self-esteem. My interview with her was followed by her quick remission.This account raises important questions about:

1. the powerful influence of the interviewer’s mind set and way of relating to patients perceived as “schizophrenic,”
2. aspects of psychiatric training and practices that have never been researched,
3. why psychiatrists misrepresent what is scientifically known about “schizophrenia,” and
4. why the psychiatric literature is silent about the personality characteristics of people who fully recover from their so-called “schizophrenia” and the processes by which they recover.

One morning the head nurse of the locked ward reported the admission of an 18-year-old woman. The psychiatric resident who admitted her the previous evening said “Molly’s parents brought her in. They told us Molly claims God talked to her. My provisional diagnosis is that she is a paranoid schizophrenic. She is very withdrawn. She won’t talk to me or the nurses.”

For several weeks the morning reports about Molly were the same. She would not participate in any ward activities. She would not talk to the nurses, her case worker, or her doctor. The nurses couldn’t get her to comb her hair or put on make-up.

Because of her withdrawal and lack of response to staff efforts, the supervising psychiatrist, David Bostian, told the resident in charge of Molly to begin plans to commit her to Ypsilanti State Hospital. Bostian said the university hospital was a teaching facility, not one that could hold patients who need long-term treatment. The staff consensus was that she was so severely paranoid schizophrenic she would probably spend the rest of her life in the back ward.

I decided that since she was headed for the “snake pit,” this was an opportunity to interview a psychiatric patient in a way very different from how I’d been trained in my clinical psychology program. I asked Molly’s doctor, a third-year resident, for permission to administer some psychological tests and interview her before she was transferred to the state hospital. The resident said I could try, although she expected nothing to come of my efforts.

I contacted the head nurse and arranged to meet with Molly the next morning in the ward dining room. At home that evening I prepared myself for the interview with Molly by reflecting on a cluster of the following four issues and concerns:

1. After reading The Myth of Mental Illness by Thomas Szasz (1961), I began to notice that the only time I saw “mental illness” in anyone was when I was at the hospital wearing my long white coat, working as a psychologist. When I was outside the hospital I never thought of anything people said as “sick,” no matter how outrageous their words or actions. I found it interesting that my perception of “mental illness” in people was so situationally influenced.

2. I’d been puzzled about an unresearched, unreported aspect of the way psychiatric residents talked to newly admitted mental patients. At our institute the psychiatric residents were required to convince each of their patients that they were “mentally ill.” I was present in the office of a resident, for example, during a shouting match with a patient….

….As I prepared myself for my interview with Molly the next day, I developed four questions for myself:
1. What would happen if I just listen to her and don’t allow my mind to put any psychiatric labels on her?

2. What would happen if I talk to her believing that she could turn out to be my best friend?

3. What would happen if I accept everything she reports about herself as being the truth?

4. What would happen if I question her to find out if there’s a link between her self-esteem, the workings of her mind, and the way that others have been treating her?…..

….I felt a rapport with her and felt that I could start a conversation. It went like this:

A.S.: “Molly?…(she looks up at me)…I am curious about something. Why are you here in a psychiatric hospital?”

Molly: “God spoke to me and said I was going to give birth to the second Savior.”

A.S.: “That may be, but why are you here in this hospital.?”

Molly: (startled, puzzled) “Well, that’s crazy talk.”

A.S.: “According to whom?”

Molly: “What?”

A.S.: “Did you decide when God spoke to you that you were crazy?”

Molly: “Oh. No. They told me I was crazy.”

A.S.: “Do you believe you are crazy?”

Molly: “No, but I am, aren’t I.” (dejected)

A.S.: “If you will put that in the form of a question, I’ll answer you.”

Molly: (slightly puzzled, pauses to think) “Do you think I am crazy?”

A.S.: “No.”

Molly: “But that couldn’t have happened, could it?”

A.S.: “As far as I am concerned, you are the only person who knows what happens in your mind. Did it seem real at the time?”

Molly: “Oh yes!”
A.S.: “Tell me what you did after God spoke to you.”

Molly: “What do you mean?”
A.S.: “Did you start knitting booties and sweaters and things?”

Molly: (laughs) “No, but I did pack my clothes and wait by the door several times.”

A.S.: “Why?”

Molly: “I felt like I would be taken someplace.”

A.S.: “It wasn’t where you expected, was it!”

Molly: (laughing) “No!”

A.S.: “One thing I’m curious about.”
Molly: “What?”
A.S.: “Why is it that of all women in the world, God chose you to be the mother of the second Savior?”

Molly: (breaks into a big grin) “You know, I’ve been trying to figure that out myself!”

A.S.: “I’m curious. What things happened in your life before God spoke to you?”

It took about 30 minutes to draw out her story. Molly was an only child who had tried unsuccessfully to earn love and praise from her parents. They only gave her a little love once in a while, just enough to give her hope she could get more. She voluntarily did many things around the house such as cooking and cleaning. Her father had been a musician so she joined the school orchestra. She thought this would please him. She practiced hard and the day she was promoted to first chair in the clarinet section, she ran home from school to tell her father. She expected him to be very proud of her, but his reaction was to smash her clarinet across the kitchen table and tell her, “You’ll never amount to anything.”

After graduation from high school, Molly entered nursing school. She chose nursing because she believed that in the hospital the patients would appreciate the nice things she would do for them. She was eager and excited about her first clinical assignment, but it turned into a shattering experience. The two women patients she was assigned to criticized her. She couldn’t do anything right for them. She felt “like the world fell in.” She ran away from school and took a bus to the town where her high school boyfriend was in college. She went to see him, but he told her to go home and write to him. He said they could still be friends, but he wanted to date other girls.

A.S.: “How did you feel after that?”
Molly: “Awful lonely.”
A.S.: “So your dad and mom didn’t love you, the patients were critical and didn’t like you, and your boyfriend just wanted to be friends. That made you feel very sad and lonely.”
Molly: (head down, dejected) “Yes, there didn’t seem to be anyone in the whole world who cared for me at all.”
A.S.: “And then God spoke to you.”
Molly: “Yes.” (quietly)

A.S.: “How did you feel after God gave you the good news?”

Molly: (looks up, smiles warmly at me) “I felt like the most special person in the whole world.”

A.S.: “That’s a nice feeling, isn’t it?”

Molly: “Yes, it is.”

(The kitchen crew came into the dining room to set up for lunch.)

A.S.: “I must go now.”

Molly: “Please don’t tell them what we’ve been talking about. No one seems to understand.”

A.S.: “I know what you mean. I promise not to tell if you won’t.”

Molly: “I promise.”

Two days later I was walking through the locked ward to see another patient. When Molly saw me she walked over and stopped me by putting her hand on my arm. “I’ve been thinking about what we talked about,” she said. “I’ve been wondering. Do you think I imagined God’s voice to make myself feel better?”

She surprised me. I didn’t intend to do therapy, but she seemed to see the connection. I paused. I thought to myself “maybe so, but if there is an old-fashioned God who does things like this, then He is watching! I didn’t care what the other doctors and nurses do, I am not going to give her a rough time. I am going to be her friend!” I shrugged my shoulders. I said, “perhaps” and smiled at her. She smiled back with good eye contact, then turned and walked away.

At staff rounds the head nurse reported a dramatic improvement in Molly. She was now a cheerful, talkative teen-ager. She spoke easily with her doctor, the nurses, and other patients. She started participating in patient activities. She brushed and combed her hair, put on make-up, and asked for nicer looking dresses.

At rounds a week later Dr. Bostian described her amazing recovery as “a case of spontaneous remission.” The plans to commit her were dropped. A few days later she was transferred to the open ward and she did so well the doctors and nurses expected her to be discharged soon. I left the hospital soon after, so I was not able to follow-up. What would have happened to her if I had not taken time to listen to her with an open mind and affirm her reality? The psychiatric staff’s prediction that she was destined to spend many years in the back ward of the state hospital would, most likely, have been validated.

Gianna again:
I don’t know exactly what was going on with me at the time of my psychosis. The circumstances leading to my disturbed thinking may have been very different than Molly’s, but I know that how I was treated in the hospital was incredibly disrespectful and humiliating, much like she was being treated before Seibert interviewed her. One psychiatrist scoffed at me when I told him God had spoken to me. I, too, was threatened with state institutionalization if I didn’t admit I was permanently damaged and didn’t agree to a life-time on meds. I remember the impact it had on me. I felt scalded and deeply ashamed. I exited that hospital with my spirit shattered. I had been an outgoing, confident socializer. I left emotionally immobilized and so insecure that I had difficulty conversing with anyone for a long time after that. A painful insecurity left me stumbling over words and feeling hideously on display for all to see how sick I was. I felt marked, branded for the severely fundamentally flawed person that I was. That mark has stayed with me for two decades. It was not apparent to anyone else for much of those years that anything was wrong with me. I had a full career as a social worker. But I never again felt whole. I never again felt unbranded, normal or healthy. I can’t say I’ve completely recovered from it. I am, just now, beginning to recover as I take my life back from psychiatry. My self-esteem has reached heights I never thought it could in just the last ten months since I began to question psychiatry and how I was treated.

We don’t know what happened to Molly. She may have gone back into an oppressive situation and relapsed. She may not have had another clinician who treated her respectfully. That is what happened to me. I was continually told I was sick by everyone who had any influence on me–family and doctors–and needed to comply with oppressive and disrespectful treatment. My prognosis as told to me was poor. And so I remained in the psychiatric system. But as Soteria House shows people who are encouraged to heal and believe they are not crazy do heal and move on to have successful lives. The tragedy is that the vast majority of people who have a psychosis or anguishing mental event are not given the opportunity to work through it. Drugs halt any natural process of recovery and freeze people in a static hell from which few are lucky enough to extract themselves. Emotional, psychological, and spiritual growth is slowed to a snails pace. Clearly some people do extract themselves sometimes and it is because of the incredible flexible nature of our psyches and spirits that some people are able to do this. But too many are not. I do not know what graced me to be able to extract myself from the lies I was fed. I feel lucky, but otherwise no different from the millions of people who are not able to do so. I did in the end have friends and family who supported me and believed in me but not until I had proved that I could function to some extent through the drug haze–many people cannot function through the drug haze. Somehow, I achieved some credibility and now no one is telling me I can’t do it. My current psychiatrist, my therapist, my neuropsychologist, my husband, family and friends all believe I can live without drugs.

How did I get here? I never gave up and I’m blessed with a fighting spirit. I never did completely accept my pronounced fate. I always doubted in some deep recess of my mind that I was incurable and fundamentally impaired. I did not completely, without a doubt, accept my diagnosis and I did not accept that the quality of life I led on drugs was all I would ever have. I continued to dream of a better life. And now I am beginning to live it. Many people’s dreams are permanently squashed and they die never experiencing a sense of well-being. This is an outrage. This is why I harbor anger and resentment. I see my fellow sufferers trapped with no one to help them. At this point my anger is slowly changing to a passion that propels me forward. I don’t actually believe that every bit of anger must be extinguished. It must just be transformed to compassion and love. And then I hope it will be a furious power for change. Perhaps it already is.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Remember the JetBlue guy?

Ex-JetBlue flight attendant pleads guilty under plea deal

Steven Slater pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted criminal mischief, a felony, and fourth-degree attempted criminal mischief, a misdemeanor. Under terms of the plea deal, he must enter a year long mental health program. During the program, he must take assigned medications and not get arrested. If he does not comply, he could receive between one and three years in jail.

He is yet another example of the myth of mental illness. He's not mentally ill. His actions went well beyond the norm and, in this case, are a threat to the State. Psychiatry is a handmaiden of the State, as the last sentence in the following paragraph about Thomas Szasz explains.

"Mental illness" is an expression, a metaphor that describes an offending, disturbing, shocking, or vexing conduct, action, or pattern of behavior, such as schizophrenia, as an "illness" or "disease". Szasz wrote: "If you talk to God, you are praying; If God talks to you, you have schizophrenia. If the dead talk to you, you are a spiritualist; If you talk to the dead, you are a schizophrenic."[8] While people behave and think in ways that are very disturbing, and that may resemble a disease process (pain, deterioration, response to various interventions), this does not mean they actually have a disease. To Szasz, disease can only mean something people "have," while behavior is what people "do". Diseases are "malfunctions of the human body, of the heart, the liver, the kidney, the brain" while "no behavior or misbehavior is a disease or can be a disease. That's not what diseases are" Szasz cites drapetomania* as an example behavior which many in society did not approve of, being labeled and widely cited as a 'disease' and likewise with women who did not bow to men's will as having "hysteria"[9] Psychiatry actively obscures the difference between (mis)behavior and disease, in its quest to help or harm parties to conflicts. By calling certain people "diseased", psychiatry attempts to deny them responsibility as moral agents, in order to better control them.

The above quote is taken from Wiki.

*Drapetomania is a clinical term coined in the 19th century. "Though a serious mental illness, drapetomania, wrote Dr. Cartwright, was happily quite treatable: ''The cause, in the most of cases, that induces the negro to run away from service, is as much a disease of the mind as any other species of mental alienation, and much more curable. With the advantages of proper medical advice, strictly followed, this troublesome practice that many negroes have of running away can be almost entirely prevented.'' (From the New York Times: Bigotry as Mental Illness Or Just Another Norm)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Here's one less thing to feel guilty about

(at least until the next study comes along.)

Many women take fish oil supplements during pregnancy, encouraged by obstetricians, marketing campaigns or the popular view that a key fish oil ingredient — docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA — is beneficial to a baby’s cognitive development.
But a large study published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the DHA supplements taken by pregnant women show no clear cognitive benefit to their babies. The study also found no evidence that DHA can reduce postpartum depression, except perhaps for women already at high risk for it.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Today's radio show features Goddess Shift contributors

The editor and several chapter writers of Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change, will be featured on blogtalkradio Online with Andrea, Tuesday, October 19, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. (If you click on the link, the orange banner at the top gives the start time according to the time zone where you live.)

Author and Editor Stephanie Marohn and other extraordinary women go onlinewithandrea to discuss their views and their contribution to the book Goddess Shift - Women Leading For A Change as well as the significance of the female energy in creating a balanced and a better world. Hosted by Andrea R. Garrison.

The following authors will be interviewed:
Pamela Wible, MD at 4:55 pm PST. Physician and founder of unusual health care clinic in Eugene, Oregon
Susan Kolb, MD - 5:35 pm PST. Plastic surgeon and healer from Atlanta, Georgia
Rayona Sharpnack - 5:15 pm PST. Founder of Institute for Women's  Leadership 
Frances M. Green - 5:55 pm PST. Employment lawyer and ex-Maryknoll nun

Chapter 34 (me!) will be home in bed asleep as it will be 1:30 a.m. my time.

Call-in Number: (347) 426-3895 from 6:15 to 7:15 p.m. (Pacific Standard Time)

A backdoor way of getting at the family dynamics

I am posting this article from today's New York Times. The subject is anorexia, not schizophrenia, but the article brings up some interesting points that are relevant in handling schizophrenia. The Maudsley method, which I have heard about before, claims a better success rate than one-on-one therapy for anorexia.

The Maudsley Method is considered family based treatment, but claims it does not go into the family dynamics that may have led to the behavior on the first place. According to a parent: "The family method gave her the skills and confidence to approach her daughter’s anorexia the same way she would approach any other disease, whether flu or cancer. If you had medicine for your child, you wouldn’t let your child take half a dose,” Ms. Ranalli said. “I would say to her: ‘This is your food — this is your medicine. You’re not leaving the table before you eat it. We will get through this together. I will hold your hand and support you through this.’ ”

Unlike traditional approaches, the Maudsley method “says we don’t think the parents are to blame for the problem,” Dr. Le Grange said. “We think they’re part of the solution, and should be center stage.” Their job is to be calm, supportive and consistent. . . .Caregivers need to speak with one voice, he said; one parent cannot be telling the child to eat while the other says, “Just give her a break tonight. The parents need to be on the same page — not just the same page, but the same line and the same word and the same letter,” Dr. Le Grange said.

This all has a familiar ring to me because of tired assertion that anorexia is like a disease. It takes the same "parents are not to blame" assertion that you hear from drug companies, NAMI, and most psychiatrists.  But when you look at what it is actually doing, it is sneaking in the idea that the parents are not on the same wavelength and it introduces the idea of low Expressed Emotion. It seems to work because the parents are not allowed to disagree about the approach and are forced to present a consistent, calm front to the person with anorexia.

Psychiatry could be as clever as the Maudsley method when it comes to schizophrenia if it really wanted to do something useful (I've been doubting this for years) and would be willing to drop the force feeding of drugs.  If the truth is too unpalatable for most parents to swallow, it appears that they would be willing to buy the back door approach.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mental illness and dissent

If there are still people around who don't believe that the mental illness label is a tool used by the State to quash dissent, here is a rather blatant example brought to you by none other than Veterans Affairs Canada.

OTTAWA — Weeks after an Ottawa man appeared before a parliamentary committee to criticize Veterans Affairs’ handling of benefits for retired soldiers, department bureaucrats concluded he was “clearly unwell” and worked to have him sent to a hospital for a psychiatric assessment.  ....

.... But Stoddart said Ste. Anne’s had no right to see the considerable amount of Bruyea’s medical information that Veterans Affairs Canada shipped to the facility.She noted the hospital was not involved in Bruyea’s treatment, nor did he express any willingness to be treated by doctors at the facility.

(Editor's note: Hmmm. Looks like he refuses to admit that he's ill. That's another sign of mental illness (in technical jargon it's called "anosognosia").

Sean Bruyea's confidential financial and medical files, held in Veterans Affairs computers, were looked at more than 4,000 times by 850 individuals over a nine-year period.

The story can be found at the Ottawa Citizen.

The pain of healing

My feet are painful right now. Normally, the pain goes away after I wear proper shoes, but this time it seems to be taking forever. I try not to stand on them too long. Both feet now feel like I am stepping on a hose. However, today the pain was less than it was yesterday and yesterday the pain was less than the day before. Last night while lying in bed, I practiced reminding myself that the small tingles and twitches I was experiencing were actually what healing feels like. Each small bit of feeling is a knitting together of the past pain in a healing way. Today, my feet felt even better.

I am reminded of this with Chris. This morning he was slightly spooky and just not himself. He missed choir yesterday by oversleeping. I called him when I got to work to remind him that he was to see the sound therapist this morning and to be on time for his train.  He had forgotten he had an appointment, and so he missed it. He missed the last one, too.

I drove home at lunch, brimming with optimism, empathy and a bottle of vitamin D drops just in case he was feeling SAD (seasonally affected.) From what he was telling me he feels quite bored, restless, and overwhelmed with where he is versus where he wants to be, without really knowing where he wants to be. The gap to him seems large.

Healing is taking place and it feels like pain. This is the time where it is absolutely essential to not add to the pain by feeling pain as a punishment. The pain is telling me that what I am feeling is growth.

Please read and circulate

The following is an excellent critique of Dr. Thomas Insel, head of the National Institute of Mental Health. It is taken in its entirety from the blog Involuntary Transformation.

Becky Murphy writes:

My intent when I started this blog was to talk about my family's experiences with the mental health system. I find that it has for me become a way to share my experiences, observations and opinions about mental health issues in general, and how my son's treatment more often than not, caused further harm. Mental Health Transformation is happening--for some individuals and groups, it is too slow in occurring; and for others it appears to be an Involuntary Transformation.

For All Of Us...Support and Appreciate Our Diversity We Will Achieve Our Individual And Collective Full Potential.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Head of NIMH Has Not Heard About "Nothing About Us Without Us?"

Thank you Gina DeLuca for sharing this link:

The following link contains the Highlander Call to Action from 2000 and The Bastille 2010 document that leaders in the consumer/survivor movement wrote.

Thomas Insel, M.D.: “We're in the middle of a revolution. We have the chance to change the world—not tomorrow, but by staying on course.”

Credit: David Hathcox

Apparently, Thomas Insel is not aware of the Consumer/survivor movement. How this can be the case is not easily explainable. It is most disturbing that this man is the head of the National Institutes of Mental Health. This statement flies in the face of the Mental Health Transformation that is being implemented in this country. It is a statement I can relate to applied to my advocacy for myself and my family and fellow consumer/survivors; but not in the context to which Dr. Insel applies it. The context he applies it is indicative to me he is perhaps ignorant of the grave harm done by the bio-psychiatric model of defining and treating those with what are identified as trauma-induced maladaptive interpersonal and sociological behavior patterns; labeling these people as having "mental Illness" and "brain diseases" has in fact been determined to be the cause of the stigma attached to such labeling! As reported in the Science Daily and The American Journal of Psychiatry Online:

The abstract in the American Journal of Psychiatry acknowledges the theory that "Mental Illness is like any other illness," was a strategy developed to fight stigma and gain the support for and acceptance of those who have been labeled as "mentally ill" by the general public. The reality is as reported, in the same journal Dr. Insel's article: that the general public were supportive of more treatment, but those labeled were rejected more! So it is this lie which became a strategy to decrease the stigma of "mental illness" did not and worse it increased the discrimination the very people this fraud was perpetrated to "serve!"

Very telling is The PACT Advocacy guide that is distributed as part of NAMI's PACT across America campaign. It is plain that NAMI is in fact advocating for a pharmaceutical industry funded agenda; not the people who have what they are labeling as "mental illness" or their families.

Bio-psychiatry devotees medicate into disability and early or sudden death those whom they treat in "traditionally" with medication, wanted or not, informed consent or not. It is common for coercion and manipulation to be tools used, in "treatment." An example of this is the Assertive Community Treatment, or Program of Assertive Community Treatment, as it is known in Washington State. people these people purport to feel a clinical psychiatry.

The consumer/survivor movement has stayed the course for decades now, as has the NIMH. Why we have stayed the course is obvious. Our recovery and survival depend upon our staying the course and standing up against the tyrannical practices to which we have been subjected. which has forged among us a firm resolve to transform the current system to one which is grounded in science, morality, compassionate care leading to recovery.

What is motivating the NIMH? It seems to me from this article, it is being driven by the same flawed thinking that drives the pharmaceutical industry and the media machine funded by Big-Pharma, cosigned by the American Psychiatric Association and so called grassroots movement of "Advocates of the Seriously Mentally Ill." Altruism is not the only thing missing from this type of advocacy; it also lacks the valid science upon which any and all efforts to treat human beings for any condition, no matter what the cause or how it is manifested should be grounded in.

Shame on you Dr. Insel!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Mark Vonnegut Comes to Harvard Bookstore

Thanks to Google Alert, I found the following article from the Harvard Crimson. No, I'm not stalking Mark Vonnegut. My alert is for "holistic" and "schizophrenia." You'll find these two words buried in the article.

Vonnegut, the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Kurt Vonnegut, sat for a book-signing for his most recent work, “Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So: A Memoir.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Holistic day in bed

I woke up several times last night, first to shoot up my stuffed nasal passages with a salt water solution, then later to take two Tylenols to get rid of an emerging sore throat. I was already feeling under the weather and sorry for myself because of foot pain in my right leg. I lay in bed trying to work out the holistic reason for my foot pain, which has been plaguing me since I got back from vacation at the end of August.

Here's the holistic approach for foot pain. Common expressions involving feet are to "put your best foot forward," to "put your foot down," or to "be constantly underfoot." There are many more. I wondered about what was bothering me that I felt it in my foot. The bottom of my foot felt like it was stepping on a tubular pipe, so I settled on, as a best guess, having something constantly underfoot. I don't have to look far in our tiny apartment to see Chris and Alex living at home while Ian and I  shuffle around at the start of our declining years.

So, what does a holistic person do? I did an EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) focusing on the pain in my foot and asking for forgiveness all around for Alex and Chris lodged underfoot. I also took the day off, figuring that keeping my foot elevated would speed the healing. Sometimes a pain is actually physical, not psychological, I remind myself.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Parental behavior as a contributing factor

Thanks to Beyond Meds for sending me this bang on article about examining your own parenting skills when trying to help your child. This mother is courageous. I am embarrassed about my own shortcomings as a parent. I haven't laid it all out for the reader and don't know if I can bring myself to do it. You would think less of me . . . I think less of me. Is it okay if I just point you in the direction of self-examination and you can trust me that I've been there, too?

ADD book by Katherine Ellison focuses on parent

Ellison questions whether it's "maternal sacrilege" to point to parental behavior as contributing to ADD. Whereas mothers in the 1960s were customarily blamed for a whole range of mental illnesses, including autism and schizophrenia, the psychiatric pendulum swung in the '80s and '90s to targeting brain chemistry - freeing mothers from guilt but leading to an uptick in pharmaceutical treatment.....

What sets Ellison's personal story apart from the countless ADD books is the degree to which she implicates her own parenting behavior - and her own ADD - as contributing to her son's behavior issues. She writes that "kids like Buzz do best with parents who aren't having tantrums right back at them."

Read more:

Monday, October 11, 2010

TED talk on sound therapy

Editor's note: TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through talks posted on its website.

Julian Treasure, the author of "Sound Business," is chairman of UK-based audio branding specialist The Sound Agency and an international speaker on sound's effects on people, on business and on society.

His full presentation is found here.

"Less mainstream, though intellectually no more difficult to accept, is sound therapy: the use of tones or sounds to improve health through entrainment (affecting one oscillator with a stronger one). This is long-established: shamanic and community chant and the use of various resonators like bells and gongs, date back thousands of years and are still in use in many cultures around the world."

Half of 1.3 billion

I was speaking with a Chinese national the other day who  expressed great surprise when I told her how widely admired and emulated Traditional Chinese Medicine is. "Really? In China most people prefer medications," she said. "Maybe 5% of Chinese go in for TCM."

Well, 5% of the Chinese population is still a lot of people. China is a huge marketing opportunity, not just for manufacturers and raw materials, but for Western holistic practitioners and psychoanalysts. 

According to the Washington Post:

Chinese doctors - whose training has been limited to drug prescription - are hungry for new theories and techniques to treat patients. Meanwhile, Freudian psychoanalysts in the United States -- often seen as outdated, even irrelevant - are equally keen to gain new ground in China. Connecting the two sides is Skype - an Internet video conferencing technology that didn't even exist until seven years ago.

As long as I remained ignorant, he remained "seriously mentally ill"

Who is this person labelled the "seriously mentally ill?" The Alternative 2010 Conference that was held recently in California brought out a lot of commentary on all sides about this thing called serious mental illness.

My son was accepted by many excellent universities, one of them an Ivy League one. I mention this not to brag, but to make the following point. A scant two years later he would never be the "brilliant" student he once was, according to his doctors. They told me very sadly that he was seriously mentally ill and since he didn't seem to be getting better, this was sort of it for him. I was to take him home and get used to the idea that his life (and ours) as we knew it was over.

I regret the time wasted not being told the truth about so-called mental illness. I look at Chris now, and I am always amazed at the intellectual calibre of the books he reads and the depth and breadth of his thinking processes. There's no reason why he can't excel at any university course he sets his mind to, should he so desire. I regret believing that there was no other option other than for my son to take the drugs we were told he needed to take so that his brain wouldn't deteriorate any further than it presumably had. I regret that I didn't know about alternatives. One reason I didn't know about alternatives is precisely because NAMI, pharma, the psychiatric industry has been pushing the idea of serious mental illness on people like me. That's their preserve. They exist because they insist that there is this special category of people.

Gradually it began to dimly dawn on me that maybe my husband and I had something to do with the state of mind my son was in. It should be at least part of the story, shouldn't it? Surely there was something we could do or think that would help? Not when the mental health industry juggernaut gets involved. That kind of thinking is considered heresy and needs to be stamped out at every possible opportunity.

Chris remained seriously mentally ill while he was under the care of the psychiatric system and until I started to doubt the system. The psychiatrists we dealt supposedly believed in what they did, but obviously what they did was a failure. They didn't admit to this. They turned thumbs down on my suggestions. They claimed that these are special cases who need their "help." I don't know what Dr. X was doing about serious mental illness, because whatever he was doing (the drugs, the therapy) wasn't working. How could he possibly claim any legitimacy in this area and that he knew something that we didn't? When Ian and I finally were forced to go behind his back to get Chris down to 25 mgs of clozapine, Dr. X. pleaded with us not to take it any lower because lower doses weren't even therapeutic! I didn't see anything therapetic happening at the higher doses or in the day program Chris attended, but this must somehow have escaped Dr. X, whose paycheck relied on the existence of serious mental illness.

They try to protect the "seriously mentally ill" through denying them their right to have their own voice, be it through medications or lowered expectations. Those who believe in the "seriously mentally ill" can't seem to grasp that having the "seriously mentally ill" exist is a colossal failure of the parts of those who claim to be doing something about it. It is an indictment of medications, genetic links, psychiatry as practiced most everywhere today, and history. Thinking that there is something called serious mental illness says that people aren't connecting cause with effect. Chances are when pressed, that people who do the labelling believe that there is bad brain biochemistry rather than bad environments.

I don't believe in "the seriously mentally ill" but I do believe that they will continue to exist as long as the real problems of the so called seriously mentally ill go unnoticed by those who claim they are treating them. "Seriously mentally ill" was something that went away after I began pursuing serious understanding of what Chris was going through and why.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Many, if not most of the therapies that I write about on this blog, such as sound therapy and Tomatis, are not known in treating schizophrenia or other mental health issues. They are just therapies that I thought had a thread of logic regarding possible good outcomes for Chris, so I went for them. I'm glad that I did. All of the therapies that I write about in this blog have moved Chris forward in some way.

Today's New York Times has an article about Rolfing, that New-Age seventies thing that was the butt of many jokes at the time. Rolfing is painful and can open up a flood of emotional memories, therefore, if introduced at all it might be good to wait until your relative is further along in the healing process.

As with other holistic practices, Rolfing seems to leave the door open for a certain mysticism. Even those who have little use for New Age-type practices like meditation can verge on the metaphysical when discussing Rolfing.

I don't normally recommend things on my blog that I haven't personally experienced, however, there are times when I do. There is a wide array of holistic products and practices that can help. Access to an Assemblage Point shift is out of the question for many due to the fact that there are so few practitioners. Tomatis is relatively expensive. There is no one pathway to healing, and I don't want readers to get stuck in thinking that there is. As long as there is there appears to be no harm from the treatment, then what do we have to lose?

Random thoughts

Sometimes I tire of all the extremism in mental health. The doctors are one thing, some of the victims/patients/survivors are something else. It can be very hard to learn and progress with all the black and white thinking going on.

Daniel Paul Schreber's wife. Now there was someone who sided with the doctor against her husband. Daniel Paul Schreber was the author of the wonderful "Memoirs of My Nervous Illness."   In his second hospitalization (1893 - 1902) he came under the care of Dr. Fleschig. His wife kept a framed photograph of Dr. Fleschig on her desk.

Today is World Mental Health Day. What are you doing about it? Here's my suggestion. Send a letter or an e-mail to the editor of your local paper denouncing the widespread use and misuse of medications in treating patients. Say something nice about alternatives.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Low Expressed Emotion, our style

Ian and I discussed Chris today. It went like this:

Ian: Where was Chris last night?

Me: He was at his course.

Ian: What course was that?

Me: A computer technician course. He took the intro in August.

Ian: Good.


Politically incorrect psychiatry


"Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well – by creating the international child of the future"
(Dr. Chester M. Pierce, Psychiatrist, address to the Childhood International Education Seminar, 1973)

"We have swallowed all manner of poisonous certainties fed us by our parents, our Sunday and day school teachers, our politicians, our priests, our newspapers, and others with a vested interest in controlling us. ‘Thou shalt become as gods, knowing good and evil,’ good and evil with which to keep children under control, with which to impose local and familial and national loyalties and with which to blind children to their glorious intellectual heritage… The results, the inevitable results, are frustration, inferiority, neurosis and inability to enjoy living, to reason clearly or to make a world fit to live in."
(Dr. G. Brock Chisholm, President, World Federation of Mental Health and first Director General of the World Health Organization)

"…Jesus Christ might simply have returned to his carpentry following the use of modern psychiatric treatments."
(William Sargant, British psychiatrist, 1974)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Misery loves company

Several years ago I joined an on-line schizophrenia support group. I was beginning to change my ideas about the diagnosis and I joined the group to meet people in a similar situation. We live in a European city where we are not fluent in the local language and this has limited our reaching out. The only people I knew going through what Chris and I were going through were part of the bi-weekly support group run by the hospital program that Chris attended. Since I was not fluent in the language, contact with other parents was virtually non-existent.

I stayed with the on-line support group for about two years. It ultimately served to harden my holistic position. The regulars in the group were wonderful people struggling daily to cope with what they saw primarily as a disease needing medication. I quickly began to feel quite out of place. The members defined themselves by their diagnosis. They lectured each other on the need to keep on the medication and did not agree with the few people who suggested that there might be another way. It was heartbreaking to see where the medication had brought many of them.

There was one young woman who was approaching her thirtieth birthday. She lived by herself in a rural area. Her father stopped by from time to time to do repairs, but for most of the time she was alone, and this was not a good thing. It pitched her further into psychosis which broke through every so often in the messages she wrote. Her loneliness was overwhelming. She was on so many high dose psych meds it made my head spin. Who enabled her to get to this position? She saw a psychiatrist once a month, but only for a med check. This young woman was very articulate, even through the meds fog. On occasions when she lapsed into psychosis, the group's verdict was to urge her to change or increase her meds. If she was clearly psychotic while on meds, shouldn't it dawn on the members that the meds might be the problem here?

The overuse of meds seemed to be a problem mainly in the United States where so many factors collude in giving people lots and lots of pills and little access to psychotherapy. It was mind boggling to see how badly off these people really were. Multiple pills, multiple diagnoses. Nobody seemed to question whether they truly were all of the labels. "I'm schizoaffective and OCD, with depressive features." No, you're not, I am thinking. You merely have problems that have not been properly addressed.

I began to feel badly for even opening my mouth about an alternative view. Why? Simply because many of the members were my age and at this advanced age, reminding people of what might have been seemed downright cruel. They clung to their diagnoses because to do otherwise might open up regret. The type of people that were in the group tended to be ones who drew comfort from feeling bad. "My brother jumped off a building in the 1970s, said one member, "and he's been in a wheel chair ever since! That's the reality of untreated schizophrenia, don't you get it? Don't talk to me about getting off the drugs!"

I left the group, not wanting to feel bad about a situation I knew I could do something about.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Report card

Chris is doing well. Ian and I stick to our vow to not discuss Chris under almost any circumstance (the low Expressed Emotion thing). Chris has enrolled for another night course in computer technology, having finished the two week intro while Ian and I were away in August. He was asked, and forced to turn down, a request to join a rock band because unfortunately it interferes with his night course. He continues his once a week voice lessons and sings in the church choir.

He sees the sound shaman once a week. The shaman, in addition to working his magic on Chris's chakras through sound, has suggested to Chris that he might want to put some of his energy into finding a girlfriend. Can a girlfriend come before a paycheck? We'll see. If he does find a girlfriend, she might be attracted by his cooking skills. He's becoming quite good at feeding the family on a nightly basis and he does a lot of the grocery shopping.

Chris continues to whittle away at the medication while seeing Dr. Stern twice a week. For those who are new to this blog, a large part of my energy was spent in the beginning fighting to get him off the medication. After being off the meds for a few months, he relapsed, although not due to the withdrawal. He went back into the hospital and was put on meds once again, most unfortunately. I argued again with the doctors to get him off them. Chris is now in the process of handling his own medication withdrawal. I noticed the other day that he seems more at ease with people, although, he still tends to stand while others are sitting, making it slightly socially awkward. I expect that to dissipate over time, but I do not feel it is meds-related.

He's thinking hard about where he wants to go in life. There are a few open houses coming up with programs that he might want to pursue. I hope he goes to them.

Chris has also started to complain that he feels that all he does is errands for us. Good. I hope he is waking up to the idea of striking out on his own, becoming his own person, ditching the ties that bind.

P.S. I forgot to mention the vitamins, as Duane noted in the comments to this post. We have a more relaxed attitude toward the vitamins than previously. Chris is no longer taking 35 vitamins a day. That was becoming a bit of a tyranny. (See: The tyranny of vitamins). Instead, he has scaled down to the Dr. Hoffer basics - NADH instead of niacin, vitamin C, a vitamin B, and recently he has started taking 4 omega 3s per day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What version of coming off meds did Will Hall sign off on?

I was going to write an update today on how well Chris is doing. Instead, after reading a postcript to the Huffington Post article by DJ Jaffe, I realized that Chris couldn't possibly be doing well.

Jaffe is highly critical of the  Alternatives 2010 Mental Health Conference, which took place Sept. 29 - Oct. 3 in Anaheim, CA.  Jaffe is not a  psychiatrist, but rather an opinion leader from the patient ranks. Jaffe is obviously a friend of state mind control, while maintaining he is a advocate for the mentally ill, so in that respect, people may confuse him with being a psychiatrist. He is no friend of the mentally ill because the opinion piece he wrote on the Alternatives Conference is a put down of human beings every step of the way in the best best tradition of institutional psychiatry. In a follow-up article today in the HP, Jaffe doesn't seem to get that so-called mentally ill people are exactly like you and me, and that's appalling, coming from someone who purports to want to help. He wants to lock'em up in a police state run by relatives in collusion with the police. He doesn't seem to get it at all.

This guy is a do-gooder by appearance but he has aligned himself with interests that are the opposite of empathetic. There are many like him out there. They are not on the side of the sufferer because they continue to deny that the labelled person has any mind of their own or any rightous reason to behave as they do. They continue to believe that there is something called serious mental illness, because not believing in it might turn the spotlight on their own biases towards the individual. They use the language of dependency. The mentally ill can't possibly know what is good for them, so we must protect them at all costs. According to Jaffe's bio, he's been advocating for the "seriously" mentally ill for over thirty years now. He only takes an anti-depressant. He's done a good job in advocating in favor of the seriously mentally ill because we still have lots of seriously mentally ill folks whose relatives like Jaffe's views.

Jaffe was very critical of Will Hall's workshop of coming off psychiatric meds. The organizers of the Conference wanted Hall to downplay the coming off psych meds. From my understanding, Hall refused to change the wording and that in effect cancelled the workshop. The organizers then backed down, and Hall agreed to deliver the workshop.

First, I looked up Will Hall's presentation - Coming Off Medications: A Harm Reduction Approach

Here's what I read today (Oct. 6) on the Internet:

Participants will learn what a harm reduction approach is, receive a copy of the Harm Reduction Guide, understand the goals of medication empowerment, and explore how to collaborate in a partnership with prescribing professionals. This workshop is not medical advice but is about educating participants to be more empowered and make wiser, more confident choices about mental health treatments including starting, continuing, reducing, changing, and going off medications.

If this was the wording that Will Hall signed off on, then that's exactly what I would want to see written.

Jaffe reports an updated description of the workshop which I reprinted below. If this is in fact what Will Hall agreed to, I am (a) very disapointed, to say the least, and (b) plenty discouraged today about Chris's prospects because apparently Chris is seriously mentally ill, a schizophrenic who needs his medications to prevent him from deteriorating. (I thought it was my job to help prevent the deterioration.)  As a labelled schizophrenic he has been singled out from the rest of the mentally ill people attending the conference as the worst of the worst. Other people who are not as well informed as you and me are going to take this advice at face value. Once a schizophrenic, always a schizophrenic is the message I get from this. Don't ever separate these seriously whacko people from their medications or tragedy will always result. My job as a supportive parent who believes in her son's innate wisdom and mental health and accepts my own share of the responsibility has just been delivered a devastating blow. So has your job.

Jaffe's update on Oct. 2nd on what we are led to believe is the revised description of Will Hall's workshop :

Updated 10/2/2010: The following section was inserted: "For the 'labeled' participants, there will be a workshop on how to go off medications. That could be a dangerous, if not deadly, 'alternative,' should someone with schizophrenia who needs medication to prevent them from deteriorating decides to do it".

It replaces a section which previously read, "For the 'labeled' participants, there will be a workshop on how to go off medications. That could be a dangerous, if not deadly, 'alternative,' should any people with real mental illness be in attendance.

Jaffe's description sounds like it might have been taken from document not related to the Conference agenda, e.g. "there will be a workshop." Did Will Hall agree to deliver the workshop as described in the Jaffe update? Please, someone, tell me no.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When pharma was fine

I used to work for pharma. It was only a summer line job at the pharmaceutical firm where my father worked, but it was in pharma. Back in the 1970s, the firm was the biggest employer in the county. Actually, it was just about the only employer in the area that paid decent wages. Those unionized paychecks went a long way to covering my living expenses through four years of university. Almost everybody we knew worked at the company in the company town - my friends' parents, my parents' friends. Pharmaceuticals were king. People liked pharma. One of the firm's big sellers was a hormone replacement drug that mother and her friends all swore by. In their opinion, it was even better than Tupperware. (I only remember one of my mother's friends developing breast cancer.) There was this unbridled post-war belief that advances in technology and pharmacology was only going to make our lives better and better.

I worked on the production line, wearing a hairnet, white coat and sensible shoes. The job involved either inspecting pills or sterilizing bottles on a daily basis. Here's a picture of how to load the hopper. I like routine jobs. You know what to expect.

Despite the fact that my father worked at the company and was a believer (and a shareholder), he also became a fervent fan of vitamins. When he was in his mid-fifties he developed a circulation problem in his leg, possibly due to years of smoking. He quit smoking cold turkey. My mother had been reading about vitamin E. They made a pilgrimage to the Shute brothers clinic in London, Ontario to learn about the benefits of this wonder drug. Eight hundred international units of vitamin E along with other daily vitamins improved my father's health significantly. He felt great. He told others. Did my parents check with the family doctor about whether they should do this? They did not. The family doctor, it was felt by many in the town, was a pill pusher. I haven't heard that expression for a while.

The example set by my parents is how attitudes are developed about one's own future health concerns. My parents believed that the daily intake of vitamins allowed them to flourish well into their eighties.

This was the era of the television show Laugh-In and the Farkle Family sketches, where a lot of the fun focused around the double sounding alliteration of the letters F and PH. The president of the pharmaceutical company in our town was an unassuming little man named Franklin F. One of my high school friends who also worked on the line had us all in stitches when she came up with the expression "Fine pharmaceutical firm you have here, Frank." That's how everybody in that country and in that era felt about it, too. Pharma was fantastically fine back then.