Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Meditate instead of medicate

Chris got another "you've got to up your game" talk from me a couple of nights ago. This time, I strongly suggested yoga and meditation. My pushing yoga and meditation will come as no surprise to anybody reading my past two posts.

I'm getting a little tired suggesting things my twenty-seven year old son should already have thought about for himself, but there you are. I'm used to pushing and prodding, after all, I'm a wife. Lucky for me, Chris is usually appreciative of my motherly suggestions. Left to his own devices, he'd continue to read Marcel Pagnol in the original French, take voice lessons, cook our dinner, and be a generally fabulous and conscientious guy.  But, he has yet to earn a paycheck nor is he pursuing full time or part time studies. He's going to have to up his game.

To move him to the next level, to get the next breakthrough experience, (he's had several, all of which have upped his game in some way) I think introducing him to yoga and meditation is what is needed. We may not have to journey to Outer Mongolia for healing by shamans, we can take a mind and body journey right at home. Some of you might be offended that I would equate yoga and meditation to upping one's game, but what is underlying this is the wish that Chris's resilience continue to increase.

I gave Chris an assignment: Find three yoga courses that he might want to enroll in and check back with me by COB today. I told him I would take care of finding the meditation. On Sunday I went to a most interesting talk about a certain kind of meditation that made me realize that this may be what we are looking for. I'm going to a meditation tonight, and will see how it goes.


  1. I think this is a fabulous way to "up his game"! I honestly don't know where I'd be without both yoga and meditation - I've found tremendous relief, resilience, insight, grounding, healing (I could go on and on) from both practices. Definitely core pieces of my treatment regimen. And as a fellow mom and wife, yes, indeed, sometimes we just need to's all in the name of love after all. :)

  2. Has it occurred to you that perhaps it would be better to allow Chris to figure out how to up his own game?

    There's a fine balance between supporting and inspiring him and doing too much for him. Need inspires motivation. He is no doubt imobilized at times by his own fears and likely has a prevailing fear for relapse, as I imagine you do as well.

    The objective is to have him take responsibility. He will have a difficult time achieving this if you keep telling him what to do. There may be more value in encouraging him to set some goals and then to be supportive in assisting him in defining the actions required to achieve those goals. For example, ask him where he would like to be positioned next week, next month, next year and five years from now. Then ask him how he plans to get there. I suspect he will define self sufficiency as one of his fundamental goals. As much as he is currently dependant upon you and at times this helps and other times it hinders at 27 I doubt he is excited about sustaining a parent/ child relationship with you and your husband much longer. I will also speculate that he likely would not be that excited about returning to studies. He's 27 and his peer group have all moved beyond the educational system.

    He likes cooking. Would he enjoy being a cook or a chef? Not would you pleased if he was a cook or chef but would he enjoy it? If not, what other possibilites? At this point in his life it may be important that he undertake some vocational purpose that he can be on the road to achievement with in months rather than years. If he decides to alter that course from a position of having accomplished something great. Rarely do we end up at the end of the path we started on. Life, at the end of the journey, is a series of unplanned events and unintended consequences.

    Often providing too much help is not much help at all.

  3. Anon - Thanks for your comments. I've thought about your question -am I being too directive? - and I decided that it was necessary to be directive. As an onlooker, I would probably raise the same question as you, as it seems like an obvious one to raise. The reason I discarded the notion long ago that I was too involved and not allowing Chris to take responsibility, is that I looked at the evidence, or statistics. According to NAMI, 80% of people diagnosed with a mental illness are unemployed. (I suspect that the "schizophrenia and bipolar" diagnoses account for much of that statistic.) I am also only too fully aware that men have a prognosis for recovery from schizophrenia that is not as good as women. The statistics are not in Chris's favor. I think I know why that is. Being married, and having raised three sons, my opinion is that men fall behind women in "self-improvement" or maybe it's actually self-awareness. I noticed years ago that the majority of my women friends were involved in some kind of night course, or credentialling, or a self-improvement course, and men, judging from their low to non-existent presence in these courses, were just not at all that interested. Like it or not, women probably have a better outcome than men in terms of recovery because they are who they are. Something else had to be done. When Chris was a young, I thought that by leaving him alone to develop at his own pace was the right thing. Any problems I saw I thought surely he would outgrow. He ended up completely crashing. So, the benign neglect that I thought was helpful wasn't helpful in his case. The big news these days is vibration, changing the vibration of the person and the environment (the family) to allow a person to become more in harmony and resilient. I doubt vibrration is even on NAMI's radar. It's not on most people's radar, so there is almost no way Chris would be aware of this potential, and if, he was, would he do anything about it? I doubt it. Of course I am wanting and encouraging Chris to be more responsible for himself, but I can also point him to where the best chances now are for a recovery (vibration). In this blog I have also written about not being somebody's cheerleader and practicing low expressed emotion. But, I can see that a lot of people would see me as interfering, so you are expressing an opinion no doubt shared by a lot of people.

  4. Ms. Forbes,

    Medication and meditation are not mutually exclusive! I have personally benefited from both and I still do.

    You and some of your readers give the impression that we who take medication wake up, take our pills and spend the rest of the day rolling around in bed or watching television.

    That may be true of some people, but it is not true of me or any of my friends or relatives who take medication. We work as hard as anyone else.

    You come by your point of view honestly, but please remember that people who do things differently are not neceessarily doing them "wrong."

    We all just want to get better. Most of us try many, many different things along our journeys. Drugs, diet, vitamins/minerals, excercise, chanting, meditation, indiviual therapy, group therapy, art therapy...I could go on all day but don't worry, I won't.

    I don't mean to sound bossy. I just feel like you're damned by some if you do take medication, damned by others if you don't.

    I feel like there is just no pleasing "normal" people.

    Have you ever said anything good about any type of alternative treatment without also condemning the use of psychiatric drugs?

    I love it that you're willing to share your family's struggle. It makes me feel a bit less alone and I too am interested in non-medical ways to improve my life.

    Of course, I'm also interested to hear what Chris is up to and I want to make it clear that I support him.

    Sometimes, though, your constant anti-drug comments are a real turn-off.

  5. Prescribing direction is very different from guiding a process of supporting Chris in defining goals and establishing the pathway through action to their achievement.

    You have made a huge commitment to Chris' recovery and I am certain he would not be where he is now were it not for you. You do however leave the impression that you have all the answers. I suggest Chris may have many of the answers himself.

    The change mantra I believe in (and that I frequently have difficulty following) is change in others is inspired by changing yourself.

    All of the meditation, yoga, and other alternative therapies may aid however an individual has not recovered until they are gainfully employed in some vocational purpose and that engagement further facilitates their recovery. Meditation is not a vocational purpose unless you plan to teach yoga or join a monestary.

  6. The title has the only drug-related word in this piece. Drugs,like it or not, totally change the picture of recovery once they enter the picture. Drugs usually enter the picture at the beginning, when people are misinformed by the medical profession that drugs are the only way to recovery and they are to be taken for life. What I am trying to do with my blog is to change that message, to give a second opinion to other parents stumbling into the world of psychosis for the first time. They won't get that message from their doctor. It is "push back" time for the decades where people like me were kept in the dark. So, yes, I can understand that my message is disturbing to you in your circumstances. If you look at my previous response to Anon you are probably one of the 20% of people who are working, and I know you are female, so you underline my point that women in general do better than men. My aim with my son is to use other methods like yoga, like vitamins, etc. to give him greater protection than drugs can do. I don't want him taking drugs for life thinking that this is the only way. I don't think I'm a real anti-drug person. I feel that they have a place, during an acute crisis, but that every effort should be made by the doctors and family members to get the person functioning as soon as possible and off the drugs. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way unless you live in Lapland, it seems. Once on the drugs, the pressure is on to stay on them. The pressure comes naturally from the medical profession but it also comes from family members. This is not a good place to be in.

  7. Anon - Of course Chris has some of the answers. He's doing a lot of the work himself, but his work appears to be more reflective (internal) at this stage than action oriented. My husband and I left him alone after his got out of hospital two years ago. We decided that it was up to him to figure this out himself. In fact, he has had neutral party support in this goal. At his psychiatrist's recommendation he has been seeing an occupational therapist who is supposed to be helping him discern his way in life. My husband and I were tired of taking on that role. Chris, however, after two years with the occupational therapist, still doesn't have an occupation, nor does he have regular commitments during the week in the daylight hours other than to see his psychiatrist and the OT. I suggested yoga partly as something to do during the day, partly as something that has known benefits in helping people to develop a great sense of self. I was not suggesting it to him as an occupational choice, but I bet it will bring him closer to breaking free from his parents, which we would all dearly love to happen. One of the many things I emphasize in my blog, is that to change others you have to change yourself, hence the mother and son journey.

  8. Ms. Forbes,

    I see your point. You don't want people to think that drugs are the ONLY answer, and I agree. I guess I felt defensive because I've been under a lot of stress lately and I'm very, very worried about letting people down, myself included.

    Some of these people are quite critical and demanding. The title of your post just seemed like more criticism and I felt sort of like a kid telling her teacher, "But Ms. Forbes, I've done that, too!"

    I try so hard and I want to do everything right, but of course I can't.

    I apologize if I seemed exasperated.

    I just feel like so many people want different things from me and as I said, there is no pleasing everyone.

    I know you're not mentally ill, but I'm sure your own life has its challenges. Having a career, a marriage, raising children. You've probably had to deal with demands from your parents and in-laws, too.

    What do you do when it feels like they all need or want different things from you? Especially when you're struggling with problems of your own?

    If you have the time, I would really appreciate it if you could tell me how you handle situations like this.

    Thank you.

  9. Anonymous,
    If I may, there is a lot in you that reminds me of Chris. You seem very anxious to please everybody, and you are forever apologizing. This is Chris. If you find life stressful, perhaps this is the reason? You are too nice and it's not healthy. Chris has been this way all along, never wanting to rock the boat, good as gold, too "nice." I think this is one characteristic that eventually can tip over into what we label as "schizophrenia." The world is not so nice, and it begins to threaten nice people when they try to seek independence, e.g. around the age of young adulthood. Guilt is tied up with this. This is where it begins to get interesting. There are therapies that encourage people to shed guilt. Emotional Freedom Technique, Family Constellation Therapy, and Sahaja Yoga are confront guilt in a gentle way. So, these are just my thoughts, but I think guilt is at the root of both your and Chris's difficulties. I suspect it is at the root of lots of people's difficulties that get labelled schizophrenia. Perhaps you are already addressing this through therapy. I particularly like anything shamanic because shamanism understands guilt. Rational thinking about guilt, e.g. there is no reason to feel guilty, doesn't get at the problem. It needs something really innovative. Breakthroughs can come with time and patience. I sincerely believe this. No, I don't have all the answers, I'm feeling my way along just like you. Please think about what I'm saying, because you seem to be a fine, intelligent person, just someone who, like Chris, is burdened by guilt.
    On my holistic journey, I have discovered that my driving force is probably fear, and I have tried to work on this. We all have these darker forces to one extent or another.
    All good wishes,

  10. Ms. Forbes,

    I have been criticized for many things, but being "too nice" is not one of them!

    What you said in your previous post is correct. I am a woman and I do work. I fell into a nice "safe" job and routine a while ago but now I want (and need!) a job that pays better.

    This means giving up my comfortable routine. It also means I need to acquire some new job skills. I have to look into night school and I'm terrfied.

    I'm an intelligent person but it has been many years since I've been a formal student. I know my old "school skills" will be rusty and I'm also afraid of "not fitting in," just like when I was a child.

    Speaking of childhood, I was badly traumatized at an insanely young age. I covered it up but (as you were so quick to intuit) I grew up feeling a powerful mixture of guilt and anger.

    I didn't deserve the guilt, but the anger was and is entirely appropriate.

    My doctor has been great about this. I can tell her how I really feel without having to worry about hurting her feelings or making her feel guilty.

    She's recommended a few books and cds about relaxation techniques and meditation. They are very helpful, as my body gets tense right along with my mind.

    I don't agree with that woman you mentioned earlier who said that people with psychiatric problems should not meditate. You just need to be well enough to focus and whose call is that to make?

    People need to decide these things for themselves, although there's nothing wrong with asking for guidance if you are unsure.

    You can't just issue a blanket statement for absolutely everyone.

    As stressed out as I feel, I'm happy to say that I have not relapsed. I'm sad and I'm nervous at times, but these are appropriate feelings to have right now. I'm not manic, depressed, or psychotic.

    Some of that is due to the medication, but not all of it. I also took medication when I was younger, too but the voices would break through when I was very stressed out or upset.

    That hasn't happened in a very long time. I don't want to take more credit than I deserve but I think facing my past and trying to reconcile it with my present and future is really helping me.

    Also, I am getting older and naturally more mature.

    So will Chris. He won't always need your guidance as badly as he seems to now.

    I am trying to see this time in my life as an opportunity to grow. It is a challenge but it is also a privilege. I just need to hang on.

    Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I appreciate both your time and your kindness.

  11. Guilt, fear, anxiety, terror, they all originate from the same place in our human psyche. They all are inspired from the traditional conversations we engage in. Specifically, we get fixed upon validation and invalidating others, right and wrong, being right and looking good (not looking bad) and these motivating factors limit our effectiveness and possibility.

    Within this state of operating we are left feeling victimized, feeling incomplete, unrelated to others and don't distinguish possibility and avoid action. What we hear shapes how we think and what we do. How do we move beyond the confines of our own existence? How do we expand the artifical boundaries that we have established for ourselves? Two factors are critical.

    1) We need to engage in a new conversation with ourself. We need to listen for our own listening and interrupt the thoughts that are disenfranchising.

    2) We need to examine why we think that way and move to a state of being complete with whatever it is that has resulted in the defensive, fearful, guilt driven response...the alreasy always listening we engage in. Thus what is it we are listening for?

    Everything resides in a conversation; the conversations we have with ourselves, our families, our peers, etc. A fundamental problem with human beings is that we don't listen to what other people have to say. We don't listen to what our environment and the universe have to say. At best we listen to what we have to say about what they have to say.

  12. Anon - re your comment
    "Guilt, fear, anxiety, terror, they all originate from the same place in our human psyche. They all are inspired from the traditional conversations we engage in. Specifically, we get fixed upon validation and invalidating others, right and . . . "

    That may be true in many situations, but I wonder if linking and limiting guilt, etc. to the way we interact does not delve far enough into why we act this way. I think that a lot of these interactions only point to a deeper, less rational guilt, etc. that won't be alleviated by rational approaches to correct these thoughts. Using the previous poster's comments where she linked her present problems to being traumatized as a child, her ensuing schizophrenia (or bipolar) may be linked to that trauma, but maybe not. The trauma may be actually linked to, e.g. guilt over a grandfather's suicide or an uncle who went to prison. Both of these types of events would trigger a coping mechanism in the remaining family members that is manifested in the next generations as anxiety/anger/fear. This is not rational guilt, easily linked to something going on now in the person's life. It would be irrational (hidden) guilt and traditional forms of talk therapy wouldn't sift out the problem. This is where the more shamanic inspired therapies can really help. Shamanism acknowledges the impact of ancestors in our present lives and the therapies to bring the problem to the surface do not appear "rational." nothing "rational" about

  13. Within the context I am referring to no feeling of fear or guilt is rational and justifiable. This is exactly what I propose when I suggest that the individual has shaped his or her thinking, consciously or subconsciously, to accommodate those feelings whether insipred by trauma or some less tangible event that you have focused our attention on.

    When we bring these limiting factors into awareness and distinguish free choice in feeling victimized or not we can begin to have a new conversation with ourselves and other people. One of the dilemmas we face in doing so is the need to be willing to give up what we have established as our identity in relating to the world. As dysfucntional as it may be we have allowed it all to become who we are and how we relate to the occuring world.

    By contrast the individuals who are really sick, are those who do not feel fear or guilt. They are capable of robbing the bank or committing acts of violence without feelings of guilt or considerable fear. They are the pyschopaths and sociopaths of society.

    Individuals, like our friend who has commented in this thread are not psychopathic or sociopathic. They are limited by their own feelings and thoughts, perhaps with some identifiable catlystic event and perhaps less so but never the less limited. When they distinguish that they have the power available with free choice to decide whether they continue to reside in the state they have confined themselves to or not only then will they be capable of deciding whether to hang on or let go. The act of moving to completion and getting over the past and their reaction to it is what allows the individual the free choice of distinguishing and pursuing new possibility.

  14. Meditation can cause emotional upheavals, and very quickly and ferociously if one is traumatized, so start slowly and find a community or class or group or teacher, don't do it alone.

  15. Rossa - I just want to jump in and say I think your motivation for "pushing" Chris is spot on. You've clearly given him space, support, and absolute unconditional love. He knows you accept and adore and celebrate him for exactly who he is. These are all crucial to recovery. I have all of these elements in my support system as well, and the one additional factor that I believe has been priceless in my fairly quick road to recovery (and rediscovery of my authentic self), is the responsibility and structure that come with being a mom and wife. If I were not accountable to my son with a daily routine, stability, etc., I firmly believe I would not be where I am now, one year out of my first psychotic episode. It's been a painful journey, but knowing I had more than just me to think about was many days the only thing that kept me going and made me absolutely determined to find wellness.

    And since Chris has nothing obligating him to follow a routine, structure, etc., having his support people encourage him in this direction seems more than appropriate. Speaking from experience, a great yoga class and meditation routine can quite easily become structure you look forward to and become resolute in maintaining - especially once you start to feel the relief, grounding, and insight they can offer. These are amazing ways to not only get him going on a routine, but to help him awaken to what happened to him and why.

    And your belief that he can continue down the path toward thriving, rather than merely surviving, will help him believe the same of himself. So many people in Chris' shoes would love to have a mom like you!


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