Friday, December 31, 2010

Person of the Year

Robert Whitaker, hands down.

I'm rushing today, so am taking the lazy way out and reprinting a review from Amazon about his 2010 book, Anatomy of an Epidemic; Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.

Impeccably researched and documented, Whitaker's book is based on long-term outcome studies that have received almost no publicity from psychiatry and other guardians of the psychiatric establishment, including, of course, the pharmaceutical companies that keep churning out new generations of magic bullets. It's a multibillion dollar industry with a lot to lose were the full truth about the drug risks disclosed and understood.

While far from an anti-psychiatry or anti-drug polemic, Whitaker's interviews with patients who are on psychiatric medications are nonetheless heartrending. Also revealing is his disclosure of the brutal treatment meted out to maverick doctors like Peter Breggin, David Healy and Loren Mosher, who all questioned the efficacy of pharmaceutical treatment of mental disorders, from schizophrenia to bipolar disorder and other maladies. Harvard Medical School-trained Breggin was in effect blacklisted. Mosher lost his position with the NIMH over his successful drug-free treatment of patients through the Soteria project he founded. And Healy promptly lost a job offer after publicizing his criticism of SSRIs and their possible relation to suicide.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Waking up from the dream

"The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend"  ---Aldous Huxley

I'm new to spirituality. Spirituality is not religion but it incorporates teachings from most of the world's great religions. Spirituality can lead to the process of becoming enlightened, to wake up from the dream state where we see ourselves divided, to the awakening or awake state (rarely fully awake) where we see unity. I've found that developing a spiritual side has helped me not only to understand and empathize with Chris, but also is the beginning of my own healing process.

Spirituality as a vehicle of enlightenment is not the end of pain, however. It leads to confusion and self-doubt. I see that in Chris. I'm beginning to see that in myself. I don't claim to be enlightened, but I am learning some surprising things along the way. As I became more spiritually attuned, I believed that as Chris began to heal, I would experience a decline in my own health that would force me to undergo the same revolutionary process that he has undertaken.

I'm reading the kind of books that I never would have glanced at in my pre-spiritual days. The more I learn, the more I practice. I see how simple life is (LOVE yourself first) but there are complexities, too.

In early November, I got some troubling blood test results that in previous years would have really freaked me out and put me in a constant state of worry. (The doctor was not as concerned.) I'd been experiencing symptoms sporadically over the previous two years. By chance I went to our bookshelf and picked out a book that Ian had purchased that I didn't know we owned. "Holy Spirit for Healing: Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Medicine,"  by former Catholic priest Ron Roth and Peter Occhiogrosso. Using Jesus'/Buddha's/Mohammed's messages, the book explains some very simple visualizations that we can use to heal ourselves.

While I was doing the spiritual healing work I asked God/the energy field/ to tell me where the problem lay. The answer that immediately popped into my head in the quiet moment of reflection was: "It's hepatitis." The answer coming from me/God was very clear. "It's hepatitis." I tucked that away as a possible cause.

After my energy work, I "knew" that any subsequent blood test results would be back to normal, but the doctor at the clinic wanted me to wait a bit longer before being retested. When I saw the clinic doctor to go over the results of the second blood test, which as I predicted, were normal, he casually mentioned that I tested positive for Hepatitis A, but he dismissed it as something that I probably picked up more than thirty years ago.

By then I had forgotten about my hepatitis prediction and didn't make the connection with the Hepatitis A news. I decided to see a specialist later in the month to be on the safe side. The specialist could hardly believe such dramatic test results were possible in such a short period of time. He told me that, of course, he always encouraged his patients to practice spiritual healing, but it was clear to me that he felt the real answers were always medical. He thought that I might have experienced an allergic reaction to a drug, but was not able to pin it down to any medication I was taking. And, no, he also thought it was unrelated to drinking red wine.

Before Christmas I went for a third round of blood tests as part of my bi-annual company physical. Results still normal. The nurse checked to see if I was up-to-date with my vaccinations and discovered that I never got the second dose of my Hepatitis A shot. She decided that since I already had the antibodies, I didn't need the second shot. It was only then that I recalled that my meditation had told me about the hepatitis.

Since, so far, I was no clearer as to the cause of the sky-high blood test results and I am still experiencing the same symptoms from time to time, over the Christmas holidays I sat down to meditate and changed the question to: Given all of this, what part of me needs to heal?

According to the mechanics of meditation, the answer may come immediately, or it may come over the next few hours or few days, if you pay attention.

In the wee hours of the following morning, I woke up suddenly. A voice/a thought said to me, very clearly, and this is where it gets very strange . . . "Get Chris a blood test."

Get Chris a blood test? That's not the answer in any way, shape or form that I thought I was expecting. How is this related to me?

I am learning, that becoming enlightened is troubling.

This strange imperative leads to new complexities. If I believe, then I must act on my belief. I'm going to have to come up with a plausible reason to say to Dr. Stern that Chris needs a thorough blood test, not like the one-off specific testing that is done for clozapine, for example. I'm going to have to figure out with Chris, what our course of action will be based on the test results. I can't imagine that the results are going to be normal for anyone on a neuroleptic (and that's why these tests are ordered by doctors only for a known life threatening side-effect).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

From the archives of the Onion

Wonder Drug Inspires Deep, Unwavering Love of Pharmaceutical Companies

"Many individuals today lack the deep, abiding affection for drug makers that is found in healthy people, such as myself," Pfizer CEO Hank McKinnell said. "These tragic disorders are reaching epidemic levels, and as a company dedicated to promoting the health, well-being, and long life of our company's public image, it was imperative that we did something to combat them."

Although many psychotropic drugs impart a generalized feeling of well-being, PharmAmorin is the first to induce and focus intense feelings of affection externally, toward for-profit drug makers. Pfizer representatives say that, if taken regularly, PharmAmorin can increase affection for and trust in its developers by as much as 96.5 percent.


A preventable death: Jesus of Nazareth

A fun new blog has caught my eye. NAMI Dearest: Helping NAMI parents overcome laziness.

Below is an excerpt from a recent post: Ancient Families of the Mentally Ill: Back when tragedies weren't preventable with meds. . .

The untimely death of Jesus of Nazareth may have been prevented if his severe and persistent mental illness had been properly treated, but alas, there were no miraculous antipsychotic medications 2000 years ago, and they, unfortunately, were forced to crucify the young man.
 No, my friends, there was no NAMI Nazareth to assist the needy Joseph and Mary. Count your blessings.

We can see from Jesus’ family history that his mother, Mary, also suffered from untreated delusions and hallucinations. At the age of fourteen, young Mary believed she was visited by an Archangel named “Gabriel” whom she claimed appeared in order to inform her that she was pregnant with the Son of G-d. Mary suffered also from command hallucinations in which, she felt, the angel was ordering her to name her baby Jesus. It is common for schizophrenia to run in families. In fact, Mary’s mother Anna was also afflicted with hallucinatory visions of angels.

Mary’s much older guardian, Joseph the Carpenter, upon discovering her predicament, was not pleased. He was determined to leave Mary and dismiss her entirely. The stress of being unwed and pregnant in ancient times, may have triggered Mary’s genetic predisposition to mental illness, the very same illness that Jesus went on to develop during early adulthood. Joseph opted instead to assist in concealing Mary’s crime, and they were secretly married by the high priest.

Indeed, this was a troubled family, prone to instability and homeless wandering. Jesus himself was born under less than sanitary conditions, surrounded by animals and their droppings, which gives credence to the possibility that he may have been infected at birth with a schizo-virus found in the animal fecal matter. Upon the birth of Jesus, three social workers visited to assess the situation, and provided some limited assistance. Yet, even with the large taxes being assessed in Bethlehem, there was insufficient funding for helping these displaced and mentally ill homeless individuals, and Mary and baby Jesus fell through the cracks of a cold, uncaring system. No, My friends, there was no Mother’s Act. Without the support of Joseph, Mary and Jesus may have succumbed much sooner to the ravages of untreated schizophrenia.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The job application form

A friend of mine sent me a question this week that I'd like to throw out to the wider community. Her son has been offered a job that requires a physical. There are now two concerns of hers that center on disclosure and stigma. The family doctor refuses to sign off on the medical form because her son was hospitalized for three weeks at this time last year, he is no longer on meds and the doctor feels he will have relapse.

My friend understands the doctor's position from a legal standpoint, but is upset that the diagnosis will follow him around wherever he goes. She objects to the fact that he was "diagnosed" after a 45 minute interview by a doctor. Many job forms ask about mental health history.

We are all in this boat. Frankly, I've been avoiding this issue because I know it will rear its ugly head when Chris eventually gets around to being employed or needing insurance. I'm just hoping that things are not as negative as they sometimes look.

Can  someone get "undiagnosed?" Or, can someone go to their doctor and demand a downgrade of their diagnosis? Since medical records are private, if someone is asked on an employment form (insurance forms are more serious if falsified) what their mental health history is, what's the matter with saying "depression?" Now that  antipsychotics are being turned into antidepressants, where's the harm in claiming you were suffering from depression? Who's going to know? What about getting a driver's license for the first time?What legal recourse is there from a discrimination point-of-view?

What have we not thought of? What words of advice can you offer us?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pharma's amazing miracle

If I were a parent who's child returned from his or her first semester on campus with a prescription for Abilify or lithium in hand, I would want to sue the university for promoting drug addiction and encouraging depression. Check out this horror story in the New York Times. This story laments the number of students arriving on campus taking drugs for various mental health issues (and predictably overdosing on the drugs they brought from home), and it endorses the idea that it's then okay to conduct surveys asking students if they are depressed. 

Pharmaceutical companies are, of course, behind these screenings. Follow the money.

She learned she had clinical depression. She eventually conquered it with psychotherapy, Cymbalta and lithium. She went on to form a Stony Brook chapter of Active Minds, a national campus-based suicide-prevention group.

On recent day, she was one of two dozen volunteers in black T-shirts reading “Chill” who stopped passers-by in the Student Activities Center during lunch hour.
 “Would you like to take a depression screening?” they asked, offering a clipboard with a one-page form to all who unplugged their ear buds. Students checked boxes if they had difficulty sleeping, felt hopeless or “had feelings of worthlessness.” They were offered a chance to speak privately with a psychologist in a nearby office. Sixteen said yes.

The depression screenings are part of a program to enlist students to monitor the mental health of peers, which is run by the four-year-old Center for Outreach and Prevention, a division of mental health services that Dr. Hwang oversaw before her promotion to director of all counseling services.

This story also is witness to the triumph of Abilify's image and market make-over from an antipsychotic to an antidepressant.

The New York Times does not allow comments to this article. It would be flooded with critical comments if it did.

Canada's receptivity to progress and innovation

I just posted to Twitter an article from The National Post that raised once again doubts about how sophisticated Canadians are in understanding and treating so-called "serious mental health conditions." The article focuses on the oddity of University of Ottawa social work Professor Neree St-Amand's views being at odds with the mainstream. Professor St-Amand believes in "empowerment" and alternative therapies, which the article cluck clucks about as being at odds with the mainstream. Canadians hate being at odds with the mainstream. The article portrays Professor Armand's views as if they are stuck in the quaint time warp of the swinging sixties where "discredited" types like R.D. Laing held forth. There is no mention that St-Amand's views aren't even considered that radical these days for people who believe in mental health empowerment. Isn't there any other live academic in Canada with these views? Singling out St-Amand makes it look like there is not.

Unfortunately, I could only "like" this article on Facebook and not post my own rebuttal to it. I tried posting a comment. The comments section wasn't sophisticated enough to let me know if my word count exceeded its maximum. Well, I don't like this article. I think it's totally out-of-date and has an agenda. You be the judge.

Canadians (and I'm one) are infinitely less sophisticated than their closest neighbor, the Americans, certainly if this article and the comments to the article are any indication. I say this because Canada lacks an effective opposition in so many areas. There is simply not a critical enough mass of people in that geographically huge country to muster much effective opposition to a wide array of social, economic or political initiatives. Say what Canadians do say repeatedly about the ills of the United States, but when it comes to voices of dissent, well, the voices are few and far between in the country to the north. You need a critical mass of people and a political and economic climate that is fertile to innovation. Canada is historically very slow in this regard. This is not a good thing when it comes to innovative mental health treatment.

People who don't know their history may find it astonishing that what is now Ontario in the early 1800s was virtually ruled by an informal "Family Compact" made up of a closed oligarchy of landowners, administrators, churchmen and businessmen who virtually monopolized public office and controlled the economy. Canada has been suffering the effects of this and other British North American elitism in one form or another ever since. Canadians by and large are more trusting of authority than in other countries. They end up with mainstream policies that they accept unquestioningly, but that often are not in their best interests if they thought about it long enough, which they don't. The Family Compact mentality lives on in so many ways.

As a footnote to today's post, I wrote an earlier critique of Susan Inman's book that I also posted on Amazon.

Please feel free to send your own (short) comments on the article to the newspaper. Let's raise the collective IQ on display. Thanks!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Who writes this stuff?

Read the recent NAMI message below. Where does it mention helping 10,000 people each day actually RECOVER from mental illness? Misery loves company is not an incentive to thrive. Let's dump the hope and inspiration in the general sense, and raise our expectations about recovery. has become a beacon of hope for more than 10,000 people each day.

Visitors to find information, support and the comfort of knowing that they are not alone in their experience of mental illness.

Whether through one of the site's comprehensive education portals or personal contact through NAMI discussion groups, millions now have access to the hope and inspiration they so richly need and deserve.

NAMI needs your support to help us continue to sustain, grow and improve this valuable resource. Please donate generously.

Another space race in mental health

Official Washington rallies 'round a cause
Patrick Kennedy announced earlier this year that he would not seek relection to Congress in order to devote the next phase of his life to fighting the stigma of mental illness. I did an earlier post in which I expressed the hope that he would investigate the world of holistic mental health if he really wanted to make a difference in the lives of the so-called mentally ill. Most of us know that this a naive hope, given that Kennedy's world is Washington politics. Power brokers in Washington like to associate with power brokers like themselves, even long after they've left Washington.

It comes as no surprise that Kennedy has announced the formation of
to bring the best minds in neuroscience together to work on the to fight the "stigma" of mental illness by taking the same old tired scientific backscratching approach.

The website has posted a letter to Mr. Kennedy from The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) that makes my holistic heart sink. It's the usual scientific neurobabble about mental illness as a diseased brain, and how SCIENCE is going to tackle a subject where it has continously failed to get even a passing grade.

The SfN has been tasked by Kennedy to identify gaps in the knowledge base and research infrastructure 
  • Identify critical research areas and gaps in scientific knowledge
  • Support the most creative science, both emerging topics and innovative approaches 
  • Ensure outstanding young scientists are inspired and motivated to continue in research and are free to take risks and innovate 
  • Establish new partnerships across disciplines that are currently far apart and disconnected 
  • Enrich the scientific infrastructure by developing new cutting-edge technologies to explore how genes, cells, neural networks and systems operate in the healthy brain and how normal processes are altered in the diseased or injured brain 
  • Develop and support coordinating mechanisms, helping researchers collaborate, share resources, and exchange ideas and information among different institutions both nationally and internationally 
  • Remove barriers to new treatments through radically rethinking partnerships between academic laboratories, the pharmaceutical industry, and health care providers 
  • Ensure a sustained and aggressive national research funding commitment that enables progress on all of the above.  
I'm sure you've all noticed the glaring gap in this initiative. The gap is that there are plenty of people who know how to overcome so-called mental illness, have been doing so successfully for years, and apparently this organization is not at all aware that this is happening all over the world.  Those who have succeeded in overcoming the stigma of mental illness almost unanimously discredit brain chemistry as a source of their problems but also cite the brain chemistry model as the reason why their recovery is prolongued.  That's why there is no representation from working well in the SfN.
The outcomes of this discredited approach will be: drum roll, please: 
  • More conferences
  • More chance for neuroscientists to network at conferences
  • More money thrown at universities to attract young, rigid scientifc minds
  • More drugs
  • More academic articles
  • More funded people to shout down dissent
  • Washington galas "to fight the stigma"
  • Presidential iniatives "to fight the stigma"
  • Little or no progress in overcoming mental illness, because, as you can see, the biochemical model of mental illness is a front for industry.
Mr. Kennedy, there would be no stigma if the labelled mentally ill were actually getting well in sufficiently large numbers to make public health and social policies over the last few decades look well-directed.  As a population, the so-called mentally ill are in dire straights. As individuals, many are doing really well because they have taken it upon themselves to do so, against the best scientific advice.
Washington loves a good stigma buster chance to party and party it will.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vitamins work, but sometimes not enough

I got to thinking about the role of vitamins in recovery early this morning (4 a.m.) when I suddenly woke up from a deep sleep. That's funny, I thought. I haven't even had a drop of alcohol, I went to yoga; so why am I waking up? Then blinding insight struck. Waking up must have been to bring my perspective to Marian's and Duane's recent exchange of comments on the chicken and egg subject "is it mental or is it physical?" Yes, that was it!

I probably have got some of their points wrong, so please read the comment string at the bottom of the post. Marian, Duane and I agree more than disagree about the importance of vitamins for good mental health. For Duane, recovery seems more about the vitamins correcting underlying health conditions that can lead to psychosis. For Marian, it's more about healing the trauma that produced the symptoms. Marian feels more strongly than Duane that original trauma lies at the heart of an eventual schizophrenia diagnosis. Duane has experienced success when supplements were administered to his teenage son, so naturally, he sees the value of this strategy. Duane's not alone, because there are thousands of people who have credited their recovery to orthomolecular therapy. I have seen instant turn-around in myself when I use vitamins for specific health problems.

Actress Margo Kidder, recovered from bipolar disorder, always says that the first thing you need to do is get a hair test. I took her advice for my youngest son, Taylor, who was beginning to worry me back in high school. This was after Chris got his "diagnosis." Taylor's rebound was phenomenal and you can read about it here.  I only wish I had known about hair tests and orthomolecular therapy before Chris fell into the mental health maze. Based on what I observed with Taylor, it is very possible that Chris would have recovered quickly if I had got to him around the age of sixteen when he first began showing symptoms. (Severe acne may be one of the symptoms, according to Dr. Hoffer, as sufferers from pellagra, a vitamin B deficiency, have the same skin problems.)

You don't have to be as young as sixteen to experience turn-around on vitamins alone, but then there are the people, like Chris, and like many others, who have become psychotic, and that's where I think it gets tricky. It is possible that once someone experiences psychosis, recovery on vitamins alone is more problematic, not because it can't happen, but because it takes longer, or perhaps because the person begins to "enjoy" certain aspects of the psychosis and/or starts to question every aspect of existence. If you experience a spiritual awakening, also known as a kundalini crisis, once the djinii is out of the bottle, it gets harder to put it back in. The crisis begins to take on a life of its own. Kundalini crises don't resolve overnight.

The problem is, and always will be, the meds. It becomes very hard to untangle what is actually going on once meds enter the picture. I have no doubt that many more people would recover quicker than they do if megavitamins and dietary changes were introduced at the outset instead of the meds. Many more people would also recover quicker if they encountered the right kind of therapy or found the right person who said the right thing at the right time.

That's why I don't play up the role of vitamins as much in my blog as much as some readers would wish. Much of the impetus for my blog comes from wanting to show people that the "harder" cases, the so-called chronic or "treatment resistant" cases are often the people where it just means you have to work harder to get at the roots of the problem. I have seen my son improve when vitamins were introduced on top of the meds, I've seen him do very well when he was off the meds and on vitamins alone, and I've seen him relapse after doing very well on vitamins alone. Some people have recovered never having been introduced to vitamins at all.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The drugs don't work, and yet they do

I've been busy lately and not able to focus much on the blog. My OLF (old lady friend) who I wrote about two posts ago got out of the hospital after three days and is bouncing around like a someone half her age. She was telling everyone she knew that she didn't need to go to the hospital and I did her no favor by taking her there. So, I read her the Riot Act, telling her that her symptoms were such that I would have been negligent if I didn't take her to the hospital. What I was trying to impress on her was that at her age, not having regular, reliable medical care isn't going to work for her much longer. She was having none of it.

This and pre-Christmas preparations have distracted me from being able to focus on cranking out a decent post. Here's what I was working on before I got side-tracked.

The Drugs Don't Work is the title of a 2009 article in Prospect magazine ("Good writing about things that matter"). I won't bore you with summary of the article, except to say that it's an in-depth review of "The Emperor's New Drugs," by Irving Kirsch, yet another book that claims that antidepressant SSRI's are worse than useless. While many of us are heartened that we finally are getting to hear the bad news about antidepressants and neuroleptics, when it comes to antidepressants, we also know that these kinds of meds work for most people. David Nutt, of Imperial College, who heads one of the largest departments of psychopharmacology in Britain says "Antidepressants work in clinical practice, and everybody knows they work."

We all know they work, due to something called the placebo effect, and we also know that while they in most cases are quick depression busters, they come with the price tag of side effects. (Peter Jones, psychiatry prof at Cambridge University, makes the astonishing claim in the article that no teenager ever committed suicide while in a clinical trial.) Kirsch's contribution is to point out that there cannot possibly be blinded studies on this particular class of medications because the clinical trial participants will quickly figure out if they are on an SSRI because they will be experiencing side effects.

The key to the placebo effect in clinical trials is expectation. People who believe they are taking the real drug are more confident that they are improving, and improve they will, even if they are on the placebo. The article explains that research shows the worse your depression, the more you will improve on an SSRI. According to Kirsch, as dosages increase in response to increasing depression, the side effects increase, too, making it more obvious to the patient that they are taking the real drug. So much for double blind trials.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Today's obituary

John E. du Pont

I'd like to see the autopsy report.

John E. du Pont, an heir to the du Pont chemical fortune whose benevolent support of Olympic athletes deteriorated into delusion and ended in the shooting death of a champion wrestler, died Thursday in a western Pennsylvania prison. He was 72.

Mr. du Pont was found unresponsive in his cell at Laurel Highlands State Prison near Somerset, Pa., a prison spokeswoman told The Associated Press.

“He had had some illnesses, so we are considering it natural,” Susan McNaughton, the spokeswoman, told The A.P., adding that the Somerset County coroner would make the final determination of the cause of death.

Monday, December 6, 2010

'Tis the season to be jolly

I make a point on my blog not to enter the territory of Gloom because enough people get their fill of gloom from the professionals dealing with "serious mental illness."

This week-end has been gloomy. The winter weather where I live would make even a cock-eyed optimist slit his wrists, but it's actually loneliness I'm speaking of. I spent part of Saturday night in an ambulance accompanying an elderly friend to the hospital. On reflection and without knowing further medical details, I believe that her extreme loneliness caused neurological symptoms.  I found her sitting in a darkened apartment, her skin was flaming hot to the touch, and she had a look of shock on her face. She kept repeating that she didn't feel well and that she was so sad. Well, she has every reason to be sad. Her beloved husband passed away three years ago last month, the Christmas season is fast approaching, and she lives completely alone.

This brings me to the next story. Chris visited a friend on Saturday night who he met at the day program he attended a few years ago. The friend is living with two cats in subsidized housing. I sent Chris off with a couple of good steaks to accompany their jamming session because his friend's refrigerator is usually empty. Chris told me that his friend doesn't understand why his family keeps him at a distance and that most people find him strange. He's been living on an electrical apprentice stipend of $20 a day for the past five years. Since he lives far from the training site, occasionally he is forced to take a cab. The people who run this sheltered workshop type of arrangement criticize him for taking a cab when he's paid so little. He's thinking of quitting.

I suspect that this sheltered workshop arrangement is the final step of the program that they both attended. Chris was encouraged to try out furniture repair after the program ended. Chris never learned furniture repair. The whole experiment fizzled out through lack of interest on his part. Since he emerged from the "recovery" program in pretty marginal shape he didn't enthusiastically embrace the work. He sat on a chair, sipping a coffee, watching the work, not doing it. The day program had the best of intentions, of course, but, as the saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

This sheltered workshop is a "good idea" that doesn't work for a lot of people, maybe because it's stigmatizing. It says to the individual that something isn't right with him while perhaps punishing the individual for living marginally, as was the case with Chris's friend. Recovery does take a while and one wonders where would the person be if these programs weren't available. In the absence of an encouraging family that person may well be on the streets.

Being separated from the family can be an outgrowth of the "good intention" approach. I maintain that more families would nurture their relatives if they weren't put off by the gloomy diagnosis in the first place. Families need to be told that complete recovery is indeed expected and here's what they can do to help. Instead, the doctors tell us that our children have brain diseases and will have to take medications their entire lives. Maybe they can live productively, but don't count on it. The medical model encourages sheltered workshops and subsidized housing. The individual becomes a problem from the families' perspective. People like Chris's friend are the biggest victims in this way of thinking.

Extending the hand of friendship is a powerful influence on outcomes in people's lives. Words and gestures can turn lives around.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NAMI 2011 Convention

Blockbuster Line Up Of Convention Symposia

NAMI is pleased to announce an exciting line up of symposia for our 2011 Convention.

Health Care Reform.

Part I will offer a Washington,D.C., focus on how the health care reform bill is likely to be handled by the new Congress.

Part II will offer "take aways," or what to do with this information when you return home.

Veterans. How NAMI is working to help veterans, the National Guard and reservists in need of mental health and readjustment services post-deployment.

Employment. Why, after all the work to develop supported employment, are 80 percent of adults living with mental illness unemployed? What can local NAMI State Organizations and Affiliates do?

Disciplinary Confinement. Isolation and confinement exacerbate psychiatric symptoms. Efforts underway to respond--including legislation, litigation and voluntary initiatives--will be examined.

Disparities and Cultural Competence. These issues will be addressed in the context of health care reform, supports and treatment availability and strategies for input and action.

Faith, Spirituality and Mental Illness. Dr. Nancy Kehoe returns to further explore the impact of religious and spiritual beliefs on recovery.

Emerging Creativity in Diagnosis and Treatment. Cutting-edge ideas to push the boundaries of our understanding of mental illness and further the effectiveness of diagnosis and treatment.

Federal Special Education Laws. Understanding IDEA, knowing your child's rights and getting effective services.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Change of environment needed

In the car on the week-end, listening to the same radio show. This time the interview was with a management somebody, who was making the same point as the sports psychologist. He said that people are sent on management courses all the time, yet they usually come back to the same dysfunctional office environment that they left. Very quickly they slide back into the same way of thinking and acting.

Here we go again. The same is true with mental health. The patient is released from the hospital (not necessarily improved, just patched over, I may point out) back into the same environment. It could be the family, it could be social housing, it could be living alone. Often, the person regresses because the environment has not changed. It needs to in order to begin or sustain recovery.

I have yet to have a psychiatrist tell me this simple truth or suggest books to me that would help me see how this works because it goes against the disease model of mental illness. Honesty is needed here, even if it means suggesting things people have trouble accepting.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Athletes and mental health sufferers unite!

I was listening in the car this morning to a radio interview with a sports psychologist. He was discussing the case of an internationally competitive skier who had suffered extensive head trauma. The psychologist mentioned that after major accidents like these there is often Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as well as the actual physical trauma.

The sports psychologist treats his athletes using visualizations and other psychological techniques. It occurred to me while he was talking that with professional athletes, the focus is always on getting them back to their former level of fitness and ability to compete. It seems to be universally expected. Athletes are considered society's "winners." All kinds of "right thinking" behavior is credited to them, from being exceptionally focused and mature, to being "intrinsically better" than the next guy, who is roundly criticized for quitting athletics early despite obvious talent.

You probably can tell that I have limited tolerance for putting jocks on Mount Olympus. What irks me is that positive expectations are lavished on jocks and the same cannot be said for those suffering from mental illness. Where are the sports psychologists for our relatives? Our relatives, too, have to get back in the game.

The radio interview discussed the long term prognosis for returning to the sport for the worst kinds of injuries, and the psychologist said that it can be done. He made it sound like it wasn't even such a big deal. In several cases he cited, athletes even managed to surpass their previous records. The psychologist mentioned that PTSD and subsequent recovery can be delayed by people around the athlete, who, in their worried state, actually make the athlete doubt his ability to get back in the game. (That would be the high expressed emotion that I have referred to elsewhere on this blog.)

The sports psychologist discussed the importance of allowing time to heal, and not rushing back too soon because, thinking you are well before you actually are is not a good strategy. I have heard that, too, from psychiatrists, but the difference is that they were coming from a place of pessimism, not positivism. They believe schizophrenia is chronic and, of course, the medications treat everybody as if they were chronic.

So, the psychiatric patient is not getting the kind of treatment that star athletes get. The typical psychiatric patient gets lowered expectations, no hope of full recovery and ability to surpass the previous self. Nobody clues in the family that being worried hinders the individual's recovery.

What's so special about athletes that we can't apply the same treatment to those suffering from mental health problems?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

NAMI loves consumers

A festive newsletter from NAMI, exhorting the consumer mentality. You don't even have to get dressed up and go out.

This year, as you recover from your "turkey hangover," start your holiday shopping from the comfort of your own computer by shopping at

The best part? By shopping NAMI will receive a portion of the proceeds generated by the sale.

Those dollars will go directly to improving the lives of individuals and families affected by mental illness.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time to practice what I preach

The teenage son of a colleague of mine has just been committed to a psychiatric hospital. He's fourteen years old. He's been receiving psychiatric help for years, but the situation was taking a new turn and becoming dangerous. His father feels all the psychiatry his son has had to date hasn't prevented what is happening now.

Here's an excellent opportunity for me to rush in and give my friend the benefit of all my experience, and yet, I don't. At least, I don't very much.

My advice wouldn't be understood because it's too soon for most people in crisis mode to absorb its simple and, at the same time, complicated message. Mental illness is so personal that it seems that nobody else can possibly have the answers for your own relative. And, of course that's true to some extent. It seems all of us are fated to learn about how to get over mental illness the hard way.

It shouldn't have to be this hard, but it is, because, unfortunately, most psychiatrists aren't willing to embrace alternatives. Right now my friend's son is in isolation, so early empathetic intervention à la Soteria or Open Dialogue isn't being considered. Even if it's not Soteria, doctors should get in there early and tell the parents it's their job to be non-judgmental, low expressed emotion and unafraid. They should but they don't. As long as the parents are scared stiff and worried, doctors can count on being in control.

In our own case, Chris's psychiatrists have, at various times, rejected vitamins, second opinions, sound therapy, and ideas coming from us. Had Chris's psychiatrist known about the Assemblage Point shift, well, I never even proposed it because I knew it would be rejected.  Most psychiatrists, even the ones I think have been helpful for Chris, don't appreciate hearing about add-on therapies. I can understand that to a point. But it often looks more like they want to control the entire process, even if it means that recovery will never happen or be delayed.

So, what did I say to my colleague? Not much, but I tried to interject optimism and a positive attitude about his son's future. I suggested that psychiatrists don't have most of the answers and a healthy amount of skepticism is needed. I mentioned that the Internet is full of different views about mental health. It's far too early to confide in him that one of the best therapies for Chris was for his parents to decide to change the family dynamics by changing ourselves, rather than our thinking that Chris was the problem in need of changing.

It's too bad that psychiatry doesn't share these insights with the family. If it did, recovery would be quicker than it actually is.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Chandra Levy verdict

I am probably stretching it, but here goes.

You may ask what's the recent verdict in the Chandra Levy case got to do with a diagnosis of schizophrenia?

Chandra Levy was an intern in Washington, D.C. who went out for a run one day in 2001 and never returned. Her body was discovered about a year later in a forested area off a jogging path.

On Monday Ingmar Guandique was convicted of her murder. Astonishingly, he was convicted despite the fact that there was no forensic evidence linking him to the crime, no murder weapon, no knowledge of what actually killed Chandra, no witnesses, and no confession on his part. Other lawyers declined the case because they felt it would be impossible to convict.
There was, however, testimony from a cell mate who claimed that Guandique "confessed" to the crime and from two female joggers who were molested by Guandique around the time that Chandra went missing.

It is astonishing that a conviction could be obtained based on lack of evidence and speculation. It looks like the jury based its verdict on what they would like to believe about the accused, and in doing so blithely overturned centuries of the common law principle of reasonable doubt. Other prosecution lawyers declined the case because they felt it was unwinnable.
A diagnosis of schizophrenia or other mental illness  is arrived at through similar leaps of faith. There is no scientific evidence that schizophrenia is a pathological disease, many people will not confess to being "sick," and yet they will be "convicted" anyway, based on their appearance and of acting outside of social norms.

Is it so astonishing that the Chandra Levy verdict is being heavily criticized for its lack of scientific evidence when those of us in the trenches see lack of scientific evidence guiding most of the legal and policy decisions governing mental health treatment?

Monday, November 22, 2010

What's it like for other people?

It is well-known that no two people labelled "schizophrenic" are alike. One of the hardest things for me at the beginning of this crisis was comparing how Chris was stacking up against "the competition." The competition were the people who were doing better than Chris at the moment or the people who were much older and fully recovered. I was frightened that Chris would be part of the group that wouldn't make it.

Well, I shouldn't have been so worried (and neither should you be about your own relative) because Chris is making it and far surpassing the expectations of the psychiatrists who labelled him in the first place. Even though Chris is not like your son or daughter in the way the crisis unfolded in him it doesn't mean that the remedies are different.  

The point I'm trying to make is that when I report progress with Chris, it may not at all ressemble anything that you are experiencing. When I write that I am pleased that Chris seems utterly bored these days, it may bear absolutely no relation to what's happening with your relative. Yet, I wonder if boredom (or some other under-exercised emotion) is a significant sign of progress that can be applied to anybody in this situation, especially if your relative is the type who never expressed much discontent one way or the other. To be discontented means that something will eventually change. A light may go on. The trick here for me is not to leap in with all kinds of ideas to alleviate boredom. He needs to take sustained action himself.

Let him be bored.

Friday, November 19, 2010


I often get long e-mails from someone or something called which I would normally ignore because the source of his messages refer back to blogs with multicolored font on the perennial black background, ABUNDANT USE OF CAPITAL LETTERS, large bold font and cut and paste as the rantings of CONSPIRACY NUTS. They are pushing their luck with me.  This is the print equivalent to me of the rantings of Herbert W. (dubblya) Armstrong, founder of the World Wide Church of God.  Herbert, through the evangelical radio show that he hosted, was always "just back from speaking with WORLD GOVERNMENTS!"  I assume Herbert was a little more focused in his younger days.

Problem is, sometimes these messages are just too interesting to ignore.

So it is with today's message from Ben (is it a person?), who gets most of his material from a blog entitled THE 18TH BLOG FOR THE OUTLAW OF PSYCHIATRY NOW ! This blog appears to be written by Evelyn Pringle, who I had banished to my spam box, only because while I liked her investigative journalism re pharmaceutical interests, I ended up getting her opinion pieces on just about anything, No, I don't want to hear from her about Obama, the war in Afganistan, or gun control, and I certainly don't want to read colored type on a black background. My interests are quite narrow, really.

Today's message is about Ablechild

Ablechild (Parents for A Label and Drug-Free Education), is a national non-profit founded in 2001, by these two mothers who each had personal experiences with being coerced by the public school system to label and drug their children for ADHD. Patty and Sheila went from being victims to become national advocates for the fundamental rights of all parents and children in the US.
Here's the link to the original blog. It's definitely worth a read. I wrote a post about my own experiences with my youngest son Taylor, when the school psychologist, in cahoots with the middle school principal, took on the role of diagnosing psychiatrists. ADD, ADHD, Schizophrenia - where's the medical evidence?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Books on my wish list

Here is a list of just some of the books I want to read, beginning with the most recently published. I plucked the reviews by readers from

Doctoring the Mind: Why psychiatric treatments fail
Author: Richard P. Bentall
Published: June 2010

Richard Bentall pieces together evidence from an impressive array of sources to provide a critical yet accessible evaluation of the current state of psychiatry. This book is not a scathing anti-psychiatry rant. Bentall lucidly examines the mental health literature, before concluding that a) mental health practitioners often fail their patients - he is self-critical and modest about his own treatment successes and failures and b) this failure is often borne out of rigid adherence to the neo-kraeplinian, biomedical school of psychopathology; an approach which is underpinned by pharmaceutical companies and their marketing strategies. Psychiatric diagnosis is a difficult process, the author - who favours a symptom-focused model - believes these difficulites arise from the inefficiencies, limitations and unsuitability of the disorder-based, biomedical paradigm of mental health. The efficacy of both pharmacological and psychosocial treatments is also comprehensively challenged - alongside the chapters on psychiatric diagnosis, these topics form large sections of the book.

See also Why antipsychotics aren't sold on street corners

Author: John Donoghue 
Published Dec. 2008

A well plotted tale, intriguing and atmospheric, beautifully written by a fine story teller.

A vivid picture which keeps the pages turning, explores the currents of possession and mental illness with a backdrop of a sizzling romance, hospital life and Catholicism. Notably, the parallel descriptions of exorcism and the clinical situation are spine-tingling.

A very enjoyable, thought -provoking read; a must for anyone interested in mental health issues.

The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self
Author: Alice Miller
First published 1979

Miller's book is concise and straightforward, asserting that parental expectations for children--however benign or well-meaning--inevitably suppress the child's real self, leading to the ongoing "dramatic" performance of an identity throughout the child's life that is not driven by his/her own feelings. The lists of common behaviors that might be signs of this drama are helpful, and provoke moments of self-recognition that can be both painful and illuminating. My one reservation about Miller's argument is that this suppression of children's true selves is often demonstrated using examples of truly abusive parents, including several accounts of incest and violence. This undermines her overall understanding of the drama tendency as an almost universal property of family life.

See also This week's obituaries

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Heroic GSK debunks own medication for a non-existent market

Omega-3 fish oil has been debunked as helpful for atrial fibrillation by a study sponsored by GlaxoSmithKline. Oddly, GSK sells the prescription omega-3 medication that was tested in the study. Lovaza is the only FDA approved medication made from omega-3 fish oil that is effective in lowering very high triglycerides.

The study's leader, Dr. Peter Kowey, cardiology chief at Main Line Health Hospital System near Philadelphia, said many people take supplements and vitamins that have not been well tested.
"People are spending an enormous amount of money on stuff that doesn't work," he said.

Results were reported Monday at an American Heart Association conference in Chicago and published online by the Journal of the American Medical Association. . . . . The capsules used in the study are sold as Lovaza in the United States and as Zodin in Europe by GlaxoSmithKline PLC, which paid for the research.

You might well puzzle over this one. Why would GSK pay for a study that shows its own product to be not helpful for a certain condition? Well, one possibility is that GSK hopes that by doing this it will demonstrate to its critics that it is open and transparent. They will begin to see GSK as not just another company that buries data found unfavorable to it.

There's always more to the story, especially when it involves those dastardly profit seekers.

Here's my thinking on it. Atrial fibrillation, as far as I know, since I've got it myself, has no known cause and is not considered life-threatening.  I have never heard that it is associated with high triglycerides and the associated risk of stroke, for which this medication has FDA approval. I'll admit I haven't spent any time researching this one, and so this is the first time I have read about the horrible fate that awaits. (Hint: GSK is planting the idea by this study that atrial fibrillation is damn serious and something ought to be done about it.)

If people are taking omega-3 for atrial fibrillation, they are using it off-label. GSK knows that it is an elusive market. Plenty of smart people can by-pass the doctor's office in favor of the health food store to stock up on their non-prescription omega-3s to cure whatever it is that they think needs curing. Waste of money? Only to doctors who would prefer that you get your prescriptions through them.

(GlaxoSmithKlein (Mighty Mouse) willing to take the hit) 

This is one GSK market can afford to lose, because it's not its market in the first place. By cleverly allowing this one to escape, it's building the new idea that atrial fibrillation is life-threatening. The market it wants from this study is me, and millions more like me, who once happily went about their lives unconcerned with the occasional flutter, and soon will be breaking down the doors of the doctor's office to get whatever GSK has in its pipeline for atrial fibrillation.

And the moral of today's story? "Beware a wolf in sheep's clothing."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Beliefs governing the universe

I have fallen in love with a book called Holy Spirit for Healing: Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Medicine, by Ron Roth, PhD. (available from Hay House). What I love about it is that the author, a former Catholic priest, is open-minded to all religious belief systems. He is especially interested in discovering the original meaning behind the Biblical words used today that so often obscure rather than clarify Jesus' message. Jesus, like Buddha, Mohammed, and others, had what is called "cosmic consciousness." He applied in his day to day teachings the laws governing the universe.

Roth has written an astonishing treatise on healing that shows that energy is the basis for healing, and love is the greatest healer of all. I'll be writing more about this book later, but for now here is an excerpt below from an interview with Ron Roth in The Share Guide.

Ron: I began to meditate on these various concepts many years ago. I don't take the scriptures dogmatically and doctrinally as many people do. In all my studies of the sacred scriptures, I look for understanding in the original Greek and Aramaic, the language of the original text. When we translate it into English, it is always a poor substitute. When I looked at the original text, the first thing I noticed was that the Greek word that is used, dynamis--which we took "dynamite" and "dynamic"--that word actually means energy. In the Phillips translation, the words for Holy Spirit are "that divine energy that raised Jesus from the dead." He uses the term energy because it is the closest to the Greek. In the old testament and the new testament, it says "great balls of fire" came flying out of the sky when people were praying. I think it was their way of saying that there is an energy that is unexplainable. This energy is really an aspect of the Divine Spirit. I don't believe that anybody has to belong to a certain religion to be healed or to be loved by God. I studied Christianity because that was my background. But there were a lot of things I did not like, and I could not see Jesus as being a promoter of those things.

The Share Guide: So you were seeking the original languages in which these holy books were written so as to get closer to the source, rather than working with thousands of years of interpretations?

Ron: That's correct. I had a scripture professor who had PhD's in Scripture, Aramaic and Sanskrit. He would say to us, "Gentlemen, whenever you are looking at passages, don't look at the English because you have to understand what the situation was at the time that the scripture was written." In other words, what did they mean by a particular phrase 2,000 years ago, which could mean something entirely different today? The word "awful" comes to mind. The word used to mean full of awe, respect, and reverence. Today it means something terrible. In the original context it still means "full of awe." So if you read a passage that says our God is an awful God, it is a clear example.

The Share Guide: Are you saying that the phrase "Energy Medicine" is really tied with the Holy Spirit, the original healing energy of God?
Ron: When you get an understanding of what a true authentic prayer means and is, it is an "energy prayer." It is not something we do; it is something the Spirit of God at the center of our being does. That divine connection keeps coming up from the spirit essence. So when you put prayer and spirit together and understand what they truly mean, you can define it as a tangible energy that people feel.

The Share Guide: Is this the same energy which in India is called prana or in the Orient called chi, the life essence?

Ron: Yes.

Second chances

I have to admit, in May 2009 I was not looking forward to having Alex, our middle son back living at home. He had graduated from university in the United States and decided to return to the country where we live to seek employment and to gain eventual citizenship. Ian and I were feeling quite closed in. Chris had just emerged from the psych hospital after a three month stay. We wondered how we would cope.

We are typical North American parents in our mentality. We expected our children to do what we did, which is to be independent -  fast.  Independence means to most North Americans, living away from home. That hadn't worked out exactly as we planned with Chris, and here was Alex arriving on the doorstep.

Alex and I have always had a volatile relationship. He's the type of kid who immediately introduces an electric charge into the room.  I could feel the jangle. Outsiders would term him engaging and lively, which he is. It's the everyday that wears you down. Every family seems to have one like our Alex.  We argue a lot. He doesn't back down, neither do I. We got under each other's skin because there must be truth to the saying that the person most like you is the one with whom you have the most disagreements.

Things turned out differently than I imagined. We're delighted that Alex is at home. He got a job; he's been a great brother to Chris and good company at the end of the day. I decided before Alex came home that I was no longer going to go head to head with him. It was time to repair the damage from our long years of discord. The less I rise to the occasion, the less I quibble about this or that, the less he grumbles and the closer we are becoming. I'm consciously trying to help him with his own hot temper and we have the luxury of being able to have the occasional quiet chat where I try to introduce some healing words.

In the language of energy healing, our family is becoming in synch because our vibrations are aligning. Our children are no longer children and yet it has taken us this long to live together in harmony. We may not be that different from other families in this regard. Yet, here we are, after 28 years of marriage, three children, and we are just getting to this point.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The little things

Since Chris was released from his third hospitalization in May, 2009, Ian and I have been keeping a low profile around Chris. We made a conscious effort to practice low Expressed Emotion. This means for us, not asking Chris how his day was, not asking him about his night course or whether he thought he might be ready to tackle something big. We don't ask, he doesn't tell. In the past, our showing "friendly interest" can also be interpreted as "concern," and this is high Expressed Emotion. We don't ask his psychiatrist for meetings and we have given up trying to figure out if Chris is in his right mind. Ian and I don't discuss Chris between us. We don't comment to each other about whether Chris seems happy or sad, and we never discuss our future hopes and plans for Chris.

The result is that things are going along swimmingly. Chris has always had a tendency to be too honest and would tell you, if asked, all about his self-doubt and would share subtle things that made one despair he would ever pass his course. We don't want to hear this (too nerve-wracking), and now we don't.

Last night I was just about to turn in when Chris knocked at the bedroom door. He popped in to tell me how much he was enjoying his computer technician night course, and that it was a bit challenging because of the language difference, but all in all, he thought it was going well.

In the past, I might have gotten all enthused and interested and probed him a bit more and then launched into some ideas about where he could go with this course. Instead, all I said was, "that's great. See you in the morning."

This is something little that is also something big.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adding trauma while combatting stigma

Kris Ulland recently wrote at Borderline Families about her feelings of apprehension when invited to attend a conference, the venue which was directly opposite the treatment facility her daughter had once attended. Many of us feel the same way. We do not like to be even in the vicinity of the psychiatric care facilities that our relatives attended. These days I only get mildly stressed when I pass the outpatient facility that Chris attended for two years. It's hard to avoid because it's on a well-travelled route within walking distance of our home.

Kris brings up a little discussed aspect of mental health care. It is traumatizing for the patients and families to revisit the "scene of the crime." I assume that mental health care is aware of this and tries to stage events away from the hospital or clinic when at all possible. I attended one such event as a service to an older woman friend whose nephew had been released years ago from the US marines after his schizophrenia diagnosis.  The military would not reveal to the family what had happened to him during his time in the marines. His aunt is still grieving and bewildered.

The event was sponsored by a local family support group for schizophrenia and was held in a meeting hall unconnected to the hospital. The guest speaker was none other than Dr. Rx, an eminent psychopharmacologist and overall head of Chris's treatment program. There he was, still wearing the same navy blazer and not looking a day older than when I had last seen him four years earlier. I slunk to our seats well in the back of the room and kept my head down, not wanting to make eye contact. This was already becoming a traumatizing experience.

If I recall correctly, the purpose of the meeting was to "end the stigma" surrounding schizophrenia. So, what did we watch? A French Canadian documentary entitled "Schizo," if you can believe it. It was all the dreary stuff associated with schizophrenia, camera slightly out of focus, sad music, a feeling of impending doom. One of the psychiatrists interviewed in the film had a long grey beard. He  looked far crazier than his patients. The mother of Marc Lépine, the young man who massacred fourteen female engineering students at the University of Montreal in 1989, was interviewed, thus reinforcing schizophrenia with mass murder. All very sad, a downer really and what was I doing there? Oh, yes, to support my friend.

After watching a film about stigma that was stigmatizing, questions were taken from the floor by Dr. Rx and his assistant. A tall, well dressed man who appeared to be in his fifties stood up to ask a question. It was apparent by the rather enigmatic way he posed his question that he was a one time consumer of mental health services. Without my remembering the specifics, there was a challenge imbedded in his question to the doctors. Dr. Rx and his assistant, remember, they were there to stop the stigma, ignored him. They looked at each other when the question was posed, and appeared rather embarrassed that a consumer of their services had challenged them, even obliquely. The man sat down after getting nowhere with the two onstage. He tried again later, and got the same result. (The definition of insanity?)

Now, if I were a psychiatrist and that were me on stage, I would have welcomed an intervention from someone who had been there. (Remember, Dr. Rx was there to combat the stigma.) I would have tried a lot harder to bridge the gap. Dr. Rx and his assistant came across to me as wanting to retain their authority and overly afraid of exposure.

I was glad when it was finally over. Never again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Laughter is the best medicine

I need more laughs in my life, I've decided. Let me put this in context. In the city where I live, I notice that nobody smiles. It's not just me who has noticed this. Life is very serious here, apparently. I have lived in the same apartment block for thirteen years and only nod to the neighbours when we meet in the elevator. They give me a wan smile in return.

Now that Chris is well on the road to full recovery, ironically I am feeling sicker. I have spent the past few years reading, almost exclusively, psychiatric literature. Not many laughs there. I need a break.

For my birthday, Chris gave me Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years. I've been a big fan of Adrian since he was aged 13 3/4. I laughed my way through the latest book in two sittings.

What tickles your funny bone?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thoughts on sychronicity from science fiction writer Philip K. Dick

For a schizophrenic, any method by which a synchronicity can be coped with means possible survival; for us, it would be a great assist in the job of temporarily surviving . . . we both could use such a beat-the-house system.

This is what the I Ching, for the three thousand years, has been and still is. It works (roughtly 80 percent of the time, according to those such as Pauli who have analyzed it on a statistical basis). John Cage, the composer, uses it to derive chord progressions. Several physicists use it to plot the behavior of subatomic particles - thus getting around Heisenberg's unfortunate principle. I've used it to develop the direction of a novel (please reserve your comments for Yandro, if you will). Jung used it with patients to get around their psychological blind spots. Leibnitz based his binary . . . . . .read more here

from Schizophrenia & the Book of Changes, an essay by Philip K. Dick, 1965

Friday, November 5, 2010

When money meets schizophrenia

There is no shortage of glitzy events by the Napa Valley’s wine elite, but the annual music festival sponsored by Garen and Shari Staglin may be the most poignant.

When money meets schizophrenia (e.g. the Stanley Medical Research Institute), the condition becomes sad and chronic. Here is a supposedly feel good story about winery owners and their son. It doesn't buck me, up, however. Where is the good news here about the person? The good news is in the glitz and the charitable do-gooderism. Why is the word "poignant" used in this article in reference to schizophrenia? It needlessly provokes, since so many others have recovered and moved on in their lives. The public is continously fed these kind of stories in relation to schizophrenia, much more so than with depression and bipolar.

Money can't solve everything, it just confuses the issue when it comes to schizophrenia. Entrepreneurs are a class of individuals who feel that they can apply the same gung ho logic to human emotions, as if the human mind were a business plan or a balance sheet. The article is full of references to genetics, medications, and, unfortunately, resignation. Heaven help us if the Gates Foundation got involved with schizophrenia.

“Most people chose to bury or run away from the problem,” Garen Staglin said. “We chose to run toward it.”

Did you, really?

What medications do to the super healthy

We've all heard the news that psychiatric patients die, on average, twenty-five years earlier than the average life expectancy. There appears to be no empirical evidence as to why this is so. Most of us know the answer is tied up with the alarming insistence by the medical profession on medications to treat these conditions. In addition to causing diabetes, blood disorders and heart conditions, there can be fatal drug interactions. The statistic presumably include the rare person who kills himself, and the rarer person who starves to death.

I believe that people who end up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are physically healthier than most people, so there is no reason related to just having a diagnosis of schizophrenia that should case premature death. Many are like Chris. My son has, to my recollection, never suffered from a cold, a fever, a cavity, or an ear infection. He has never spent a day in bed due to an illness. . . until he ended up with a diagnosis and went on medications. Dr. Abram Hoffer observed that his schizophrenia patients tended to be the super healthy.

Since being on the medications, Chris has suffered dizziness, weight gain, tiredness. He has had to have his heart regularly monitored. While he was on clozapine he had to go for a monthly blood test. Despite all this, he has still has never had a cold, a fever, a cavity or an earache.

If you are naturally super-healthy (you have received a diagnosis of schizophrenia), there is absolutely no way that you should be dying twenty-five years early. If anything, you should be living twenty-five years longer than the average life expectancy. If people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia are supposedly dying twenty-five years early, it must be the medications that are causing this in the majority of cases. Getting off or substantially reducing the medications, even if you have been on them for years, should be something worth thinking about.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Invite journalist Robert Whitaker to speak at World Health Organization

The excerpt below* is from a recent address given by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization, at the Mental Health Gap Action Programme Forum.

If you read the mhGap Action Programme guide, mental health care is seen as the domain of the medical profession. Antipsychotic medications are also the first line of treatment for psychosis and for bipolar disorder. This runs contrary to what consumers want. People who actually suffer from these and other mental health conditions often say that the person who made the difference in their recovery was a caring relative, a friend, or more rarely, someone in a clinical setting who actually took the time to talk to them in a caring, empathetic way. This kind of intervention early on has greate potential to help the patient recover quicker.

Running contrary to the consumer's position, the mhGap Action Programme places the emphasis firmly on interventions that can be undertaken by busy doctors, nurses, and medical assistants. Well, how is a busy doctor or nurse going to fulfill the needed empathetic role in a crisis situation? They're not. The guide directs the patient to» Encourage involvement in self-help and family support.

What positive, encouraging attitude does the guide promote about the prospects for full recovery?

» Inform the person of the expected duration of treatment, potential side-effects of the intervention, any alternative treatment options, the importance of adherence to the treatment plan, and of the likely prognosis. (Rossa's comment: This is purely "clinicalese," very off-putting to patients and family. Will non-drug approaches be considered as alternative treatments? The term "likely prognosis" sounds bad, very bad to me. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy for a dismal prognosis. Also, how is a medical assistant, a nurse or a doctor qualified or even capable of predicting the "likely" prognosis?)

» Address the person’s questions and concerns about treatment, and communicate realistic hope for better functioning and recovery.
(Rossa's comment: Again, who are the staff to tell us what is realistic? What's this talk about "functioning?" We demand and expect better than this.)
Robert Whitaker, author of Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America, should be invited to speak at the World Health Organization. He can talk about how the use of medications actually prolongues mental illness and, more importantly, in the context of the Mental Health Gap Action Programme, he can talk about the success of the Open Dialogue program in Finland. The Open Dialogue program is purposely staffed by non-medical professionals and resists drug treatment if at all possible.


With publication of the mhGAP Intervention guide, we now have a simple technical tool for detecting, diagnosing, and managing the most common, and burdensome, mental, neurological, and substance use disorders, in any resource setting.

The emphasis is firmly placed on interventions that can be undertaken by busy doctors, nurses, and medical assistants working, with limited resources, at first- and second-level facilities. Mental health problems, whether depression, epilepsy, dementia, or alcohol dependence, are real disorders. They cause death and disability. They cause suffering. They have symptoms. And they can be managed, in any resource setting.

This is the message we can now communicate with confidence.

No matter how weak the health system or how constrained the resources, something can always be done.

In a key achievement, the Intervention guide transforms a world of expertise and clinical experience, contributed by hundreds of experts, into less than 100 pages of clinical wisdom and succinct practical advice.
The guide, in effect, extends competence in diagnosis and management to the non-specialist, while respecting their busy schedules.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

From the NAMI Newsletter

On a Mission: NAMI's Outreach to Veterans and Their Families

Educators bringing NAMI Family-to-Family program to the Veterans Administration have already touched veterans and their families across the country with NAMI's unique brand of education and support.

"The military needs someone who can tell families how it is," says Char Cate, an Air Force veteran, NAMI advocate and co-teacher at one of the classes in Virginia. "The first thing my students say is, 'Why did it take so long for us to find something geared towards families?'"

Sheila Boone leads Family-to-Family classes made up of veteran and community families in Michigan. "The mixed classes work because the program is so well organized. Families do a wonderful job identifying with each other and bonding." She has noticed some themes common among veteran families: "They're starved for information. They're not getting the support they need because some feel they must hide their family member's mental illness."

Brenda Piper, an instructor with NAMI North Carolina, says Family-to-Family's well rounded program is uniquely suited for outreach to veterans' families. "Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not the only issue in these communities. A lot of military families are finding that the veterans contend with depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse or a combination along with PTSD."

Family-to-Family is not the only NAMI educational program reaching out to veterans. Samuel Hargrove, who served both in the U.S. Army and the National Guard, says he used to hide his mental illness behind a mask. Now on full disability because of his mental and physical issues, he wishes he was able to return to active duty but has found a second calling in NAMI programs like In Our Own Voice and Peer-to-Peer. "I'm on a mission," he says. "I can help NAMI reach out to veterans, and NAMI has been so honest and welcoming with me."

Our successes within the veteran community are just the beginning of our work with the many military families who are now touched by mental illness. Help NAMI fulfill its mission--donate today and help fund NAMI educational programs, outreach and support.

A Kundalini explanation

A Kundalini emergency can mimic schizophrenia and other health issues. While Eastern mystics and yogis and many Western holistic practitioners believe in it, mainstream Western medicine does not. Whether you call it an aroused Kundalini or an energy imbalance or a spiritual emergency, it doesn't really matter, because it's a health emergency.

Western medicine was not able to provide an answer as to why Chris experienced intense piercing pain over his eyebrow as our plane landed. He screamed in pain, and then it was gone just as quickly as it came, except for the lingering headaches over the next few days. The nurse at the airport had no explanation. I took him to our family doctor, who offered no explanation and didn't recommend any tests. Chris continue to feel sensitive (inward inversion of pressure) in that area for the next six months. He then began experiencing the first of many symptoms which medicine labels the "prodromal signs. When I brought the head pain to the attention of the doctors after Chris was hospitalized, they simply shrugged their shoulders. They had never heard of intense head pain as a symptom of schizophrenia.

Western medicine had no explanation, but Kundalini arousal offers one. A friend alerted me to this* article on the symptoms of Kundalini. One of the many possible symptoms is headaches or pressures in the skull.

The Kundalini-Network in Denmark has a site that documents seventy-six cases of Kundalini arousal.

Else Johansen writes:

- Kundalini arousal especially occurs as an unintentional side effect of yoga, meditation, healing or body-and psychotherapy. Some of the other releasing factors can be: Births, unrequited love, celibacy, intense studies, physical traumas, deep sorrow, high fever and drug intake. But Kundalini arousal can also occur suddenly without apparent course.

- When the process of Kundalini had lasted in me for about ten years, I was too tired out to be able to earn a living on my own. I went to a doctor and said: "It is completely crazy, my Kundalini has been aroused. What shall I do?" And then I told him about my state.
 - "You are deeply psychotic", he said. "I will send you to a good psychiatrist. The energy you are talking about does not exist. You have serious misconceptions".

- I got sick pay and later disability pension, diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic, without first having been taken in for a mental examination. No doctor that I spoke to concerning my pension believed my talk about Kundalini.

- But in the yoga literature I got a reasonable explanation of what had happened to me. Yes, I understood that the secret purpose of yoga and meditation actually is to release the kundalini force. When Kundalini reaches the brain, it is said to be stimulating the brain cells that are normally not used, so that a higher state of consciousness is reached.

Else Johansen continues and says that the doctors' ignorance of Kundalini has led to diagnoses like hypochondria, escapism, inflammation of the brain, and calcification of the brain.

- In a radio program, in which I participated, a psychiatrist said that Kundalini is just an idea, imported from the East through yoga. People hear or read about it, and therefore they think they have Kundalini arousal.

- But that reasoning does not hold, Else Johansen continues. I have met 250 (1996) people who have had a well-defined kundalini process, and about half of them did not know about Kundalini beforehand. It was a shock to them when the process started. They have been helped a lot, knowing what actually happened to them, because in any case it is an advantage to know what is going on. That they later found an explanation to the odd thing that happened to them, has helped them enormously, because it is in any case an advantage to know what is going on."

The addition of, or withdrawal from, drugs (legal or illegal,) exacerbates the physical and mental symptoms.

An earlier post of mine discussed correcting energy imbalances by shifting the assemblage point.

In Castaneda’s The Fire from Within, Don Juan repeatedly warns about the health dangers that come from an assemblage point that has been knocked off center. Both legal and illicit drug use can knock an assemblage point off center. Don Juan uses peyote and other medicinal plants to induce a hallucinatory state in Castaneda. To bring him back to a balanced state afterwards, Jon Whale observes that Don Juan surreptitiously gave the author a quick sharp blow to the shoulder blade, popularly referred to as the shaman’s blow.

Dr. Whale has observed that psychiatric drugs do a poor job of moving the assemblage point back into position. According to him, psychiatric drugs do not take into account the complexities of the endocrine system and leave the patient in a chronic depressed state rather than correcting the situation.

*Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies webpage

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Don't worry, they'll find it

Where was it I read recently that science always eventually turns up with what it's looking for? Science has the uncanny ability to postulate the existence of a certain black hole or a particle, for example, and by golly, prove it right. Human beings are the same. We will eventually find what we're looking for.

Here's what's happening over the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN.) It developed a Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in part to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson field. This theory has become popularly known as the search for the God particle.

From This clustering effect is the Higgs mechanism, postulated by British physicist Peter Higgs in the 1960s. The theory hypothesizes that a sort of lattice, referred to as the Higgs field, fills the universe. This is something like an electromagnetic field, in that it affects the particles that move through it, but it is also related to the physics of solid materials. Scientists know that when an electron passes through a positively charged crystal lattice of atoms (a solid), the electron's mass can increase as much as 40 times. The same might be true in the Higgs field: a particle moving through it creates a little bit of distortion -- like the crowd around the star at the party -- and that lends mass to the particle.

Today's NY Times article is found here.

By the time it shuts down in 2011, the CERN collider should have amassed about 20 times as much data as it now has, enough to make a dent in the Higgs hunt.

John Ellis, a CERN theorist, said the future looked bright.
“The vise is closing in inexorably,” he said of the Higgs. As for dark matter, he said the CERN collider would soon exceed the Tevatron in exploring for new particles: “I can hardly contain my enthusiasm.”

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.