Tuesday, June 29, 2010

God is not "the man upstairs"

Inasmuch as religious feeling is part of the process of growing up in modern society, it is most often relegated to the category of the irrational, and can then be regarded as unprovable, and so, unreal. Logical thought and action appear alone to determine reality. The transcendental gradually diminishes in importance because it is never personally experienced. And the main reason for this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God. The Divinity is not remote from us at some mystically infinite distance, but inside each one of us. It should inspire us to lead our lives in harmony with the Infinite -- to recognize our short existence on Earth as part of the eternal Whole.

For centuries, Western thought has viewed the individual falsely as a being separate from God. In the 'enlightened' twentieth century, modern Western thought seems less certain than ever about possible answers to the most ancient human questions about God and the meaning of life. All over the world, new spiritual centres have sprung up, attempting to give answers to these questions -- questions which the rigidly held precepts of Church officialdom cannot answer. A kind of ecumenical world religion of the future is in ascendance. It is moving towards self-realization, towards a search for Enlightenment, towards a mystical and consummate vision of the cosmic context of one's individual existence, and all this by means of contemplation, self-knowledge and meditation.

The most forceful impetus for promoting such an internalization of religion has always come, and will continue to come, from the East, primarily from India. Western Man must now reorient himself in the most literal sense of the word -- turn towards the eastern dawn. The Orient is the origin and source of our experience of the inner realm.

From Jesus Lived in India: His Unknown Life Before and After the Crucifixion, by Holger Kersten, Pg. 5

An Amsterdam wedding

We went to a wedding in Amsterdam this week-end (friends of the bride). The bride really likes Chris, so he came, too. The wedding was held in an artists' club. The groom is a sausage artist. No joke. Apparently, there is an international movement or society of sausage art.

Since the crisis with Chris, I find I have more in common than not with the arty crowd. Brief conversation with a guest: "And what do you write about?" I asked him. "Insanity," he answered before moving on. Lots of common ground here.

Chris dutifully stuck with us for most of the time and then slipped away to discover Amsterdam on foot after dark. We all know what that might involve.

On our last day in Amsterdam, Chris and I sat at a sidewalk café enjoying the warm sun and a cold Amstel beer. I noticed, as I have from time to time, that Chris wasn't wearing his glasses yet seemed to have no problem seeing, so I asked him if he could read a sign on a building on Johnny Jordaan Plein, and something in between us and the building, and could he read the tourist pamphlet he was holding. No problem.

"So, Chris, if you can read all of this, why are you wearing glasses?"

"Well," he said, "I was in ninth grade and I was worried that I wasn't keeping up academically with the others, and somebody suggested maybe I should have my eyes checked. Now that I think of it, maybe I ended up getting them because the store just wanted to sell me glasses, but when I put on the glasses, I also felt more intelligent."

"Be that as it may, Chris, but that was the year when you changed both continents and school systems. You ended up actually a year ahead based on your birthday. You had some catching up to do as you could have gone either way grade wise." What I didn't mention was that he got a needed academic wake-up call, as he had been quite a slacker before that.

"Hmm, Mom, I wonder if I've been using the glasses as a crutch, just like the doctors in the early psychosis program said about the meds being a crutch."

"Possibly, Chris. In any case, you don't need glasses to prove your intelligence. Also (I thought of our recent Family Constellation), just because your father wears glasses, doesn't automatically mean you need glasses. You're not your father. You don't have to take on your image of him. You're you. You're free to be yourself."

"But, I've been wearing them for twelve years already."

"You could try not wearing your glasses for a while and see what happens."

It makes me wonder if he is beginning to "see" things more clearly, meaning that sometimes we wear unnecessary ideas or affect appearances that are not us. We unconsciously think this is how we are expected to be because of a parent. The vision thing is not without precedent in our family and makes me think that glasses are overprescribed, particularly in the country where we currently live. Frames here cost a fortune. Chris's youngest brother, Taylor, was also prescribed glasses in fourth grade when Ian and I rejected putting him on Ritalin for non-existent Attention Deficit Disorder. We did, however, concede at that time that there was a possible eyesight problem. He was prescribed the usual expensive glasses (and spare pair), and after that he never wore them. That was a medicalizing or "optometrizing" of a childhood behavior.

All of us are fooled at some level. It may take us years to see, keeping in mind that the new vision is, in itself, just another shifting reality.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Design your own T-shirt contest

The silly season is upon us. The NAMI convention runs from June 30th to July 3rd in Washington, DC. Imagine you are picketing their convention center proudly wearing a T-shirt you have designed yourself. You're MAD as hell.

I just checked the NAMI website and noticed another misery story about schizophrenia with a dire warning about going off your drugs. Oh my gosh, it's even worse than I imagined.

The Movie
Unlisted: A Story of Schizophrenia is set to screen on Friday, July 2, at the NAMI National Convention. The gripping documentary depicts the struggle of filmmaker Delaney Ruston, both a daughter and a doctor, to bring her father, who has paranoid schizophrenia, back into her life after hiding from him for ten years.

What starts as a powerful story of reconciliation suddenly shifts when Delaney's father stops his medications and goes missing.

Steve Lopez, author of The Soloist, has called the film "beautiful and powerful."

This extraordinary film challenges us to reflect on our own ideas about mental illness, compassion and responsibility.

Here's something to get you started. Make your messages playful but pointed. All entries will be forwarded to MindFreedom and posted on this blog.

"Off-meds and a danger to society"
E. Fuller Torrey

Unmedicated and roaming the streets

I'm a MAD mother
(Mother against psychiatric Drugging)

SZ, unmedicated, and luvin' it.

Off-meds, not off my rocker.

Went on a psych trip and all I got was this crummy T-shirt.

Off-meds. Back-off.

Just say "no" (to psych drugs)

Mommy - can I take drugs? No dear, just the antipsychotics the doctor gives you.

NAMI: Las drogas se habla aquí.

Pharma and NAMI: A marriage made in heaven.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The "off-meds" hysteria

A cause worth promoting is to decouple the idea that people with a label of schizophrenia are, by definition, dangerous when off meds. Stephany of Soulful Selpulcher relates the story of how differently her daughter was treated by authorities when she somehow lost the label "schizophrenic." In the first instance, her twenty-one year old daughter was slammed face down into the dirt by the police because word got out she was a schizophrenic "off meds." An over-reaction worthy of the best horror films ensued. It's the "off meds" part here that causes the violent reaction. OMG - they're off meds! Nuke-em! When, on a different occasion, the same young woman was reported "mute and autistic," she was treated with respect.

Remember the hunger strike that MindFreedom went on back in 2003 to try to force the American Psychiatric Association to produce actual scientific evidence backing the reason why only the medical theory of 'chemical imbalances' predominates when it comes to mental illnesses. (No evidence was produced.)

How about a bunch of people getting together to go down and picket the American Psychiatric Association, the offices of E. Fuller Torrey, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), most government funded health organizations and other proponents of the idea that people off meds need to be back on them? Not just any bunch of people but a bunch of people who got the label SZ and are fully capable of functioning off their meds. They can hold up signs saying "I'm off meds. What are you going to do about it?" Or, "I'm off meds. What next?" or "Off meds doesn't mean off my rocker." How about "Off meds - Back off!"

NAMI - scary

NAMI is getting seriously scary. It is aligning itself with childhood drugging. Excuse me, but how exactly are pediatricians qualified to conduct mental health screening? The kinds of problems they will be picking up will not be with the people who end up with a diagnosis of schizophrenia at 20, but rather with children who are presenting behavioral problems, usually with justifiable cause. NAMI should be lobbying for non-drug interventions, such as family counselling. Oops, I forgot. NAMI insists that mental illness is biochemical in nature, therefore guaranteeing an income stream to pharma while letting parents off the hook. Shame, shame.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Kathlyn Beatty and wanting to be like Daddy

A reader commented on my recent post on Family Constellation Therapy. It is remarkable that she recognized her own experience in our Constellation - that the child is being protected by the mother from the father - and she reinforces her observation by asserting that others have experienced the same.

She writes:
"That family constellation post got me thinking... It's the same feeling I used to have. That my mother stood like an insurmountable wall between me and my father. With her back turned on me. Actually, I used to have an audio-visual hallucination where I stood at the top of a gangway, trying to board the ship I knew, I would find my father on, my mother blocking the way for me. I tried to make her understand that I had to get onboard, in every language I knew. To no avail. She simply didn't hear me. Horrid. Having a nightmare while awake. Did you watch "Family Life"? I think, it's in the first or second part that Janice's father tells the shrink that he felt like his wife stood between him and Janice."

Is it true that I was protecting Chris in some way from his father, my husband? The Constellation doesn't lie, but there can be many plausible possible interpretations. A Constellation, if the participants are willing, provokes honesty and clears the air. My husband might have felt instead that mothers are meant to be closer to their children when they are infants, but he did not. Instead, he rightly objected to what he perceived as my shielding his own son from him. Ian is not close to his own mother or father and perhaps he is trying to close that gap with his own son, to make Chris him.

Ian's views of his own parents' dynamics are at odds with how I see my own father and mother. I used to joke that I got my father "as interpreted by my mother." My father wasn't that comfortable with his daughters when we were young, except when giving advice or instructions. So, my mother would be the messenger of whatever it was my father was thinking. Depending on who is doing the observing (mother/father/child), the separation of Ian and me in the Constellation doesn't have to be seen as malicious. It struck me as normal enough based on my family dynamics.

Family dynamics are complex, and there are many possible plausible explanations for what is going on. I choose to believe in just about any explanation that will allow us to move forward and heal. That's the beauty of Family Constellation Therapy.

Which brings me to Kathlyn Beatty. Why are we not surprised about her wanting to become transgendered? Kathlyn is the oldest daughter of actor Warren Beatty and his wife, actress Annette Bening. From a Family Constellation point of view, the only surprise is in the details. You can't predict exactly how the child will act out the assigned role. Warren Beatty, for anyone who has lived under a rock since the 1950s and hasn't followed Hollywood, has bedded more actresses than there are grains of sand on the beach. In a town famous for its casting couches, Warren Beatty stood out. The clue as to why his sexual appetite was so prolific has got to lie somewhere in the annals of his family history. His sister, Shirley MacLaine, who looks a lot like her niece, judging from the photos, is as successful and well known as her younger brother, but as a actress and writer, not as a serial womanizer. Shirley MacLaine has some interesting spiritual beliefs, such as in reincarnation. She has also contributed a chapter to the book in which I have a chapter, Goddess Shift: Women Leading for a Change.

It's easier to spot the parent/child connection within the Beatty family than it is in our own families, because the Beatty family is writ large. We all know what they've been up to. Daughter's wanting to change from a woman into a man surely must have something to do with Daddy. Mummy's side, no doubt, plays more than a bit part, too. Blame is one judgment that has no place here. German psychotherapist Bert Hellinger urges us to "accept what is." Family Constellation Therapy could help here to get to the possible motivations behind this and possibly untangle Kathlyn and family's unconscious desire for her to be just like Daddy.

On several levels, what Kathlyn Beatty wants to do is disturbing. The fact is she is only eighteen years old. To subject herself at such a young age to something that she may later regret is premature thinking. Sex changes involve surgery and a lifetime of powerful drugs. I suspect Kathlyn is too young to have anything but utmost faith in pharmacology. She has grown up in a world where Hollywood actresses, through the chemical magic of fertility treatments, can have twin babies past menopause. Face lifts are old school. Breast implants and botox are routine. To her, it would be like changing one's wardrobe, perhaps a bit more involved, but I doubt she is seriously aware of the downside. Waiting a few years and delving into the psychotherapy behind this desire, might prevent an act she may come to later regret.

I sometimes wonder if today's children who have opted, with their families' enlightened blessing, to become homosexual in orientation, will turn around in later life and accuse them of failing to prevent them from going ahead with something they now think they were too young to decide. Fashions come and go. Be wary of becoming fashion's victim.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Emperor's new clothes

This excellent Tracking the American Epidemic of Mental Illness - Part II by Evelyn Pringle, comes eerily close to my own perceptions of what was going on with the day program that Chris was enrolled in for two years in the European country where we live. When we joined the program in 2004, it had already been operating for ten years and was touted as a success - by the psychiatrist who ran it. As with the Portland Identification and Early Referral (PIER) program, there was no follow-up as to the real outcomes of the young people who went through Chris's program. Chris has been out of the program for at least three years, and so far we have received no follow-up asking us how he is faring. While he was in the program, we were aware of no statistics on the outcomes of the previous ten years. Like the little boy who saw that the emperor had no clothes, we were told to believe in the miracle that was happening.

Readers of this blog will know that Chris was not getting better during the time he spent in his program. My pleas to individualize his treatment, to begin by at least acknowledging that that the drugs weren't helping him, fell on deaf ears. I felt the program was off-base in getting at the real problems of psychosis. The program believed in the second generation antipsychotics, particularly clozapine. I have my own reasons for believing in a financial incentive as the reason the program particularly pushed clozapine, even though it was, by then, a generic drug.

Here is an extract from the Evelyn Pringle article.

An August 2008 article, by Charles Schmidt in Discover Magazine, highlighted the PIER program with a byline that stated: "A new mix of therapy and medication may stave off psychosis among teens at risk."

Schmidt discussed the case of Camila (not her real name), who entered the program in September 2001, when she was 14. "Camila and her family stuck with PIER for the four-year treatment program, which ended formally in 2005, and still keep in touch with counselors there," he reports.

However, "Camila's health still hinges on antipsychotic medication," Schmidt says. "In the summer of 2007 she went off the drugs for a spell and her strange feelings returned."

He notes that her reliance on antipsychotics raises issues. "On the one hand, it shows that the threat of psychosis hasn't really been removed, it's just been held in check."

"What we hope is that the benefits of treatment will be lifelong," McFarlane says in the article. "We don't have any empirical evidence to support that yet, but what we've seen is that young people who still haven't converted to psychosis after about three years of our treatment don't seem to be at much risk."

While he suggests that over time, some patients may be able to go off medications, McFarlane acknowledges that PIER hasn't developed a plan for managing that process, Schmidt reports.

"As to when or if they can go off medication, that's hard to say," he told Schmidt. "I think many of our patients don't feel a need to stop; they certainly don't feel oppressed by it. At a certain point it becomes a personal choice."

A fortune can be made from these life-long antipsychotic customers.

The downside of progress

Today's New York Times article is about how advances in medical innovation, such as pacemakers, mean that many of us will become progress's casualties, or, as the author writes about her parents, "At a point hard to precisely define, they stopped being beneficiaries of the war on sudden death and became its victims."

Normally, I don't like to introduce such a somber note into my blog, but I think the article shows the similarities between access (or lack of) to full information for both psychiatric treatment and other medical treatment. If you have full disclosure, you may decide to take a different course. At some point, I,too, decided that psychiatric medications were making a difficult situation worse.

Below is a condensed selection of paragraphs from the article.

. . . My father’s medical conservatism, I have since learned, is not unusual. According to an analysis by the Dartmouth Atlas medical-research group, patients are far more likely than their doctors to reject aggressive treatments when fully informed of pros, cons and alternatives — information, one study suggests, that nearly half of patients say they don’t get. And although many doctors assume that people want to extend their lives, many do not. In a 1997 study in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 30 percent of seriously ill people surveyed in a hospital said they would “rather die” than live permanently in a nursing home. In a 2008 study in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 28 percent of patients with advanced heart failure said they would trade one day of excellent health for another two years in their current state. . .

. . . And so my father’s electronically managed heart — now requiring frequent monitoring, paid by Medicare — became part of the $24 billion worldwide cardiac-device industry and an indirect subsidizer of the fiscal health of American hospitals. The profit margins that manufacturers earn on cardiac devices is close to 30 percent. Cardiac procedures and diagnostics generate about 20 percent of hospital revenues and 30 percent of profits. . .

. . . In the summer of 2006, he fell in the driveway and suffered a brain hemorrhage. Not long afterward, he spent a full weekend compulsively brushing and rebrushing his teeth. “The Jeff I married . . . is no longer the same person,” my mother wrote in the journal a social worker had suggested she keep. “My life is in ruins. This is horrible, and I have lasted for five years.” His pacemaker kept on ticking. . .

. . . Not long afterward, my mother declined additional medical tests and refused to put my father on a new anti-dementia drug and a blood thinner with troublesome side effects. “I take responsibility for whatever,” she wrote in her journal that summer. “Enough of all this overkill! It’s killing me! Talk about quality of life — what about mine?” . . .

. . . On a Tuesday afternoon, with my mother at his side, my father stopped breathing. A hospice nurse hung a blue light on the outside of his hospital door. Inside his chest, his pacemaker was still quietly pulsing. . .

. . . A year later, I took my mother to meet a heart surgeon in a windowless treatment room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She was 84, with two leaking heart valves. Her cardiologist had recommended open-heart surgery, and I was hoping to find a less invasive approach. When the surgeon asked us why we were there, my mother said, “To ask questions.” She was no longer a trusting and deferential patient. Like me, she no longer saw doctors — perhaps with the exception of Fales — as healers or her fiduciaries. They were now skilled technicians with their own agendas. But I couldn’t help feeling that something precious — our old faith in a doctor’s calling, perhaps, or in a healing that is more than a financial transaction or a reflexive fixing of broken parts — had been lost.

Extraordinary rendition

“By pursuing clinical trials in foreign countries with lower standards and where F.D.A. lacks oversight, the industry is seeking the path of least resistance toward lower costs and higher profits to the detriment of public health.”

Full New York Times article found here

Monday, June 21, 2010

Just keep hammering home the message

From Beyond Meds

Think of those who are still subject to the care of mental health professionals. They are by definition subject to care, if my experience is to be taken seriously, and I for one do take it seriously, that considers them inherently less than equal. I remember when I was a clinician too. Some of these people who are prejudiced are well-meaning. But well-meaning and acting without prejudice are unfortunately not mutually exclusive. I don’t know how one extracts this insidious form of prejudice. They don’t see it in themselves…how do we help them see?

My solution is probably simplistic, but here goes. Just keep hammering home the message, politely, respectfully, but leave no one in any doubt as to why the attitude is objectionable. If you lose control, you will give "them" more ammunition to use against you and others like you. You will only haved confirmed their prejudice. Join forces with others and vary your media. Picket, write letters to the editor. Write letters in response to letters to the editor. Do book reviews. Remember the gay pride movement? Notice how respectful everybody is these days to homosexuals compared to what it used to be. Homosexuality was considered a mental illness, too, until the movement forced psychiatry to drop it from the DSM.

A big yawn

I was talking with Chris last night before dinner and he kept breaking into big yawns from his comfortable position in the easy chair. His whole face contorted, he opened his mouth wide and he sucked in air. In other words, a typical yawn. He yawned three or four times, enough to make me wonder if I was boring him. Why is this so interesting? Well, for one, a yawner he is not.

Apparently, people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia do not yawn. Based on my knowing Chris, by golly that's right. I had never seen Chris yawn. Maybe he did as a baby. If so, I've forgotten, but for sure I never saw him yawn as a child, teen and adult. A few weeks after Chris underwent the assemblage point therapy, I caught him yawning. Haven't seen much since. Chris has told me repeatedly recently that his life lacks fun. It appears that he is beginning to be uncomfortable in his role of stay-at-home guy with little fun in his life.

Here's a partial explanation for what's going on, from the Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic. I don't necessarily agree with the final paragraph's hypothesis about chronicity.

A homeostatic reflex and its psychological significance
Heinz E. Lehmann, Professor of Psychiatry, McGill University

Clinical Observations : It is an old clinical observation (Russell 1891; Geigel 1908) that persons suffering from an acute physical illness never yawn as long as their condition is serious. Nurses have learned to recognize the return of yawning as a sign of patients' convalescence, particularly in those patients who have infectious diseases. The literature, however, reports few observations regarding yawning in psychotic patients, although Hauptmann (1920) made mention of its possible significance.

Some time ago I was struck by the conspicuous scarcity of yawning among mental patients. I informally recorded the incidence of people yawning in public gatherings, on buses, in restaurants, at scientific meetings, and on mental hospital wards. These observations confirmed my impression that yawning among the mentally ill is unusually rare. There were two exceptions: patients receiving large doses of sedatives and those diagnosed as suffering from organic brain syndrome. Of course, the absence of yawning in patients with psychoses associated with constant psychomotor excitement or increased nervous tension was not surprising since excitement or emotional tension usually excludes the occurrence of yawning in normal individuals. However, the majority of patients I observed were quiet, inactive, indifferent persons suffering from schizophrenia. Their failure to yawn requires an explanation.

One of the most consistent physiological findings about patients with schizophrenia is defective homeostasis. The schizophrenic patient's ability to adjust to changes in the internal milieu is impaired. Slight reductions of the schizophrenic subject's brain metabolism would, therefore, provoke a homeostatic response less easily than in a normal person. Yawning might not be elicited unless the yawning provoking stimulus assumes an unusual strength such as that provided by hypoglycemia or by barbiturates.

As I have mentioned, the principal psychological agent to produce yawning-boredom-is an affect characterized by an extraverted attitude, a searching tendency toward reality. The schizophrenic subject's typical withdrawal from reality and his affective blunting make it almost impossible for him to be truly bored; his passivity, indifference, and daydreaming must not be confused with boredom. In addition, the schizophrenic individual can hardly be expected to imitate unconsciously the yawning of another person since he is not likely to transfer sufficient interest to other persons in his surroundings. Therefore, when a schizophrenic patient yawns as a result of boredom or unconmous imitation, it shows that the patient's contact with reality is not entirely lost and that he is making an effort to maintain it. In fact, when any psychiatric patient yawns, it is a signal that he is in an accessible mood, regardless of his general mental state or diagnosis.

Of course, yawning is by no means completely absent in schizophrenic patients. Its incidence, however, appears to be much lower in schizophrenia than in normal mental conditions or in other mental diseases. The occurrence of yawning in early schizophrenia may be evaluated as a favorable sign; however, it seems to be of ominous significance in chronic schizophrenia. One may theorize that yawning in the acute schizophrenic patient is the reflection of a fairly intact homeostatic system and possibly the expression of the patient's efforts to retain his contact with reality. In the chronic stages of the disease, yawning may be indicative of structural brain changes and the formation of a new, permanent, and pathological relationship to the outside world, characterized by complacency and the complete loss of the inner stress and tension that should accompany even partial insight.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Another constellation

Ian and I underwent a Family Constellation on Thursday morning with Dr. Stern, just the three of us, no Chris involved. The premise of this Constellation was Chris's early childhood and in utero period, what Ian and I were like at that stage, our feelings surrounding the pregnancy, etc. Dr. Stern already had "the dirt" on us since I had provided her early on with a family tree on both Ian's and my sides of the family. She knows where all our skeletons are hanging.

For those not familiar with our Family Constellation Work, you can read about what it is and a Constellation that we did earlier, here and here.

Before we began the Constellation, we discussed the fact that I actually heard the pregnancy happen (yes, it was a "ping" sound) but after that I felt nothing more from Chris for ten months. It was like he froze. We discussed how Ian and I felt like we weren't ready for parenthood. It took us a few weeks to welcome the idea, not without prior feelings of apprehension. Chris didn't seem to want to be born, given the fact he was twenty-seven days past due (born in early January instead of early December) and frozen almost the entire time. We discussed Chris being as good as gold in childhood, never wanting to draw attention to himself, never stepping out of line to risk incurring our anger. There are other things that we discussed that had a bearing on the Family Constellation, which I feel are a bit too private to post.

Then it gets complicated, complicated in ways that emotional bonds in families are complicated. Dr. Stern took over and Ian and I drew straws as to who would place the shoes on the floor. I was the one and I quickly, without thinking, dropped the papers with the shoe outlines of Ian, me and baby Chris on the floor in the middle of the room. Ian noticed that I had put Chris on the other side of me, as if I was shielding him from his father. I was, in the sense that I often felt that Ian's concern with safety issues was getting in the way of healthy childhood exploration. I noticed that the gap between Ian's and my place on the floor was rather large. Ian's shoes were pointed out, away from us. This intuitively made sense because Ian was focused on his career during the early years. Successfully married people grow together over the years. At the beginning,you are still finding your way.

Dr. Stern stepped into everybody's shoes and expressed the emotions that she picked up from her own intuition, knowledge of our family, and the way in which the shoes were placed on the floor. She remarked that she couldn't see Chris from Ian's position on the floor. When she stepped into my shoes, she also noticed that she couldn't see Chris behind her. When she stepped into Chris's shoes, she felt that nobody saw her/him. Chris was blocked from seeing the world ahead of him. Why was this? she asked.

If you are interested in a Family Constellation and willing to suspend disbelief, this therapy is for you. Ian and I were intent on Dr. Stern's message and joined in the speculation. It became apparent from the Constellation that we were protecting Chris, but from what? Dr. Stern then had an "idea" and shuffled through the file of our long dead family members and produced the shoes of my father's older brother, who died, unnamed,in 1908, having lived from Dec. 9th to Dec. 11th. What was Chris's due date, again? Dr. Stern asked. December 10th, I answered. I placed my great uncle's tiny prints on the floor in front of me. That struck me as the more logical place to have put Chris. That was my quick intuitive response, and the unconscious mind knows best. Here was the dead baby looming large in front of us, in direct sight of me, Ian, and Chris. Yet, I never gave this unnamed baby a thought when I was growing up.

Dr. Stern then had another idea. She hauled out Ian's father's older brother, who died in 1926 around the age of four of leukemia. Ian's father carried the identical name of his brother, as if he was the replacement for the dead brother. Ian placed the dead great uncle behind him.

Dr. Stern, through her acting out this particular Constellation, was hinting that early childhood separation of first born sons was a shadow that loomed over both sides of the family. Ian and I unconsciously passed a fear of early separation to Chris. In essence, Chris assumed the victims' roles and assumed their spectral presence, perhaps staying close to home to fulfill our unmet needs. I reminded Dr. Stern that Chris has had a ghostly quality to him from childhood. He was pale and unobtrusive. He can (and still does) somewhat miraculously appear in a room, as if he had materialized out of thin air.

Dr. Stern then moved Chris's footprints to the front and off to the side, where he could see his father, mother and great, great uncles. She stood in his shoes and looked at the Constellation for a long time, then slowly shook herself, noticing that her left arm was beginning to feel less heavy and mechanical. The left side of the body, she said, represents the mother. Her right arm (the father's side) slowly started returning to life again. I feel quite good, I feel like I can make a new beginning, she announced. I am not very down-to-earth, though, she continued. I am lighter than that. If I do something with my life, what would it be? Ian and I waited patiently for her answer. She appeared perplexed. It wouldn't be a businessman or a gardener, she felt sure about that. That is too earthbound for me. No, I am, more like a . . . . Well, I can't quite put what I want to say in words, but it is almost like being a stewardess in an airplane, having a light touch in asking the passengers how I can be of help.

Family Constellation therapy doesn't assume that there is one defining event that shapes families' intergenerational emotional lives. There are many events that have a transgenerational impact. It is clear to me the goal of every Family Constellation session is to bring unity to the family members, both dead and alive. Dr. Stern didn't leave us wondering. She closed the session on a note of hope. She literally stood in Chris's shoes and said "I am going to be okay." Ian and I will then go away relieved, with a burden lifted. We will not be passing on our worries to Chris, because these worries have been lifted. Chris, himself, will sense this.

We are following Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt's advice. After a Family Constellation you walk away from it, you do not analyze it, and you wait for the magic to happen

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Connecting the dots in consciousness and schizophrenia

The therapeutic treatment of serious mental health issues like schizophrenia will converge in future around consciousness.

Eric Allen Bell
I asked Deepak, "Why is there suffering in the world" and he answered.."All suffering comes from the hallucination of separateness".

Scientists are taking a new look at hallucinogens, which became taboo among regulators after enthusiasts like Timothy Leary promoted them in the 1960s with the slogan “Turn on, tune in, drop out.” Now, using rigorous protocols and safeguards, scientists have won permission to study once again the drugs’ potential for treating mental problems and illuminating the nature of consciousness.

Lucid dreaming
People who focus single-mindedly on a task during the day, be it a computer game or playing a musical instrument, are more likely to experience lucid dreams, says Jayne Gackenbach at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada.

These experiments in lucid dreaming, few though they currently are, may have wide-reaching implications in clinical situations, particularly in the study of mental illness. "When you're a schizophrenic, you're in primary consciousness really," Voss claims. "What you're lacking is reflective awareness; you cannot distinguish between reality and your hallucinations." On this basis, Voss wonders whether it might be possible to stimulate the necessary regions in schizophrenic patients to help them achieve greater lucidity in their waking life. The work might even suggest ways for healthy people to enjoy lucid dreams. "Wouldn't it be nice if you could get somebody in REM sleep to become a lucid dreamer just by stimulating his brain?" says Voss. "No one's tried this before."

The Satori system
This privately developed technology is being used by the US military in veterans centers and in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is becoming widely available in US spas and the developers are partnering with Mental Health America to distribute 250,000 MP3 complimentary downloads to U.S. servicemen (emphasis, my own)

The Satori system uses alpha, theta and delta frequencies to induce relaxation by lowering brainwaves, lowering serotonin levels and bringing the body into a REM-like state.

Chris Forbes on sound (color) therapy
A very interesting thing happened, which accelerated the time it took to achieve “zen” with the color therapy. Beginning with red (opposites), all the tension left me and I entered into a different space, a space that was not defined by my body but rather was defined by my “rational” mind, the part of me which had preferences and opinions. My mind was liberated, and while I did not enter into free fantasy or “lucid dreaming”, I was questioning things I took for granted, and how I defined most things against my body. At green and blue I was released completely from the present and concentrated on my memories, and I became aware of the life flowing in my limbs and the changes, I could see how my legs had become stronger but less flexible since I started treating the body like a machine.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Writer's block

Saturday morning I attended a writers' workshop on publishing and marketing. The discussion revolved around the latest technologies like Twitter, self-publishing on demand and a machine that chunks your manuscript out as a bound book. (There are twenty-eight of these machines around the world at an installation cost of $100,000 each.) I found out that you can get a ten minute e-mail so that you can send a one-off message and not be bothered with your mailbox filling up with spam afterwards.

Speaking of which, on Friday I was targeted by one of those e-mail scams using the familiar name a sophisticated man I know here who claims he was robbed in London and desperately needed money to get back home. Knowing that this was a fraudulent abuse of his good name, I sent a message back. Yes, yes, would like to help, what can I do? A day later, my "friend" is still broke and in London. Nobody has bailed him out yet. The new e-mail suggests that I wire the money to him through Western Union and send an e-mail as I set out for the office. I immediately wrote back and said that I tried to go, but the office was closed when I got there and that I hoped he had sorted himself out. His reply arrived the next day. "Alright no prob. I'll have to reschedule my flight and as soon as it is done, kindly get back to me with the Western Union transfer details. I owe you alot!"

Technology . . . making our lives easier and less complicated.

Attending the writing group is to give me the push I need to get my book finished. This baby has been five years in the making. It's time to give birth. I don't want to give up the daily blogging, so I am going to have to find a way to get this done short of taking a leave of absence from my day job. The reason I have not given up is because I feel it is important to put out a positive perspective for once on schizophrenia. A positive perspective coming from a mother I hope will carry some clout. It would be excellent timing because it would coincide with the growing disillusionment with the biochemical romance that Robert Whitaker's new book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, has demonstrated.

In the meantime, I have the added burden of struggling with the technology and the promotion. Self-publish or hound hundreds of agents to no avail? Twitter my accomplishments? I'm still dubious about Twitter. I fear that I am in a Twittering myself loop most of the time.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Indeed, brain injury due to psych meds

I am posting this link from Beyond Meds as a public service for a fellow blogger who has been going through a tough withdrawal process after years of taking multiple medications, often at extremely high doses. She is finally off benzos, but is still suffering the lingering effects. A medical professional finally said it. She has endured injury to the brain because of using these drugs. It is the first time on her long journey that a doctor has put the blame where blame is due, on the medications for the protracted agony she has been going through. Critics have been saying all along what doctors have refused to acknowledge, that these drugs cause damage to the brain. I am using the phrase "damage to the brain" rather than "brain damage," to make a subtle distinction. Damage to the brain can be healed, whereas "brain damage" implies that the condition is irreversible. That's my interpretation, anyway.

I also feel it is important not to alarm people who are already struggling with the heavy anxiety and guilt that comes with the use of psychiatric drugs as part of the therapy. Since there are no "medically" sanctioned alternatives, and patients and relatives are not informed by the doctor about non-drug possibilities, antipsychotic medications are almost always part of the treatment plan. Therefore, it is extremely important to be vigilant with the doctors by doing your homework. Medication should be short term and in low doses. There is no justification for the use of two antipsychotics, scientific or otherwise. I do not believe in multiple diagnoses for a mental health condition. When your doctor diagnoses you as, for example, bipolar and schizoaffective, with OCD traits, what this means is that you have problems, and your doctor is one of them. He or she doesn't have a clue how to help you so simply piles on the drugs. Your only defense is to hold your doctor's feet to the fire to keep drugs to a minimum and learn to find other ways of coping.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Chalk Garden

Chris and I went to see The Chalk Garden Friday night, our local expat production. Ian was out of town and Alex has a girlfriend to occupy his time, so it was just the two of us. Putting aside the weak acting, the message was interesting.

The Chalk Garden had its debut on Broadway in 1955. The setting is an English country house owned by an exceedingly wealthy woman who is parenting her sixteen year old granddaughter Laurel. They have a conscientious objector manservant and an incapacitated butler who lives upstairs. The play opens as new governesses are being interviewed to take charge of Laurel. No governess has stayed for long because, among other things, Laurel sets fire to things. Laurel also delights in telling anyone in earshot that her father committed suicide when she was twelve, she was sexually molested in a park around that time as well, and her mother has remarried for "love!" Laurel is, as we say nowadays, a "piece of work."

The grandmother thinks Laurel is delightful and humors her. "Apart from a few fixations with fire, she's a charming girl," she insists. The greatest sin it appears, in the grandmother's eyes is to be boring. Other than that, the grandmother comes across as engaged, liking people, confident in her own judgment (she doesn't ask for references), but not terribly introspective. In short, she seems relatively "normal." She encourages Laurel to run amok and poke her nose into other people's business. Today she would probably be referred to as an "enabler."

The reserved new governess, Miss Madrigal, is obviously hiding something. She is a knowledgeable gardener and horrified that nothing will grow in the garden. All the wrong plants have been introduced into soil that is essentially chalk. She catches on to Laurel rather quickly. Laurel's mother makes a couple of attempts to visit and she and the grandmother quarrel constantly. She wants to take Laurel back to Suez live with her, her new husband, and Laurel's soon to born be half-sibling.

The play was written in an era when people were fascinated with Freud's theories. What I find interesting is that it wasn't a heavy-handed caricature of motherhood, sex and secrets, but rather how obviously people can overlook problems brewing in children. Many parents want their children to be interesting, even a little bold, we often give them a long leash while they are growing up and we expect them in the end to come around. Parents are stereotypically portrayed as spirit crushing tyrants, but I feel this play shows the other side of child rearing that will often lead to problems in adulthood if tolerated. Laurel's problems are an exaggeration of more benign traits in children that can still prove to be problematic in adulthood.

The action in the play really picks up when the grandmother's old flame, the Judge, comes for luncheon. He's seventy-five years old and still presiding at the criminal court. Laurel, the manservant and the butler are fascinated by murder cases. Laurel cleverly figures out during the luncheon that Miss Madrigal has appeared before the judge at some point in the past, and it quickly becomes evident that Miss Madrigal was tried for a murder. She was originally sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to fifteen years solitary confinement. Miss Madrigal feels very strongly that she was unjustly convicted, since she had, for the first time in her life, told the truth, but neither the judge nor the jury wanted to hear it. So to jail she went, narrowly avoiding execution.

Time in solitary confinement has given Miss Madrigal time to change who she is, not just in hiding her past, but in her newfound commitment to truth. If she doesn't get to Laurel, she, of all the people there, knows where lying can lead. She won't give it a pass as just something Laurel will grow out of. She confronts Laurel about the incident in the park, and sure, enough, it didn't really happen, and Laurel's father died of liver failure, not suicide, when Laurel as three, not twelve. Miss Madrigal literally forces Laurel to leave for Suez with her mother, because she knows that Laurel will not grow in this house.

I remember when I was in my twenties reading in the newspaper of a girl I had gone to elementary school with, who was sent to jail for bank embezzlement. I hadn't thought of this girl for years until I saw the headline. The first thing I remembered about her was that even back in third grade, you couldn't trust anything she said. Her family probably thought she would grow out of this, too.

Chris's "problems" in childhood flew under our radar screen. He was an intelligent child who did his best to remain invisible. He didn't bother working in school, yet managed to do okay. Mathematics, the perennial Achilles heel up for a lot of students, wasn't a problem for him. He simply didn't try to excel, which Ian and I overlooked as typical of boys. We assumed he would clue in later. No teacher ever called us to say that Chris was having problems, academic or social. His problem from my perspective even then was that he was kind of invisible and he wasn't putting himself out there in the game of life. Do parents drag their child to a psychologist with the complaint that he's kind of bland and not putting himself out there? This is the opposite of Laurel's problem. Laurel's issues are nowadays the kind that are more likely to be brought to the attention of psychologists.

Would a psychologist have been able to do anything about my concerns? Maybe, maybe not. Would a psychologist have even seen where this could lead? I don't know. If I knew then what I know now, I would have paid more attention to helping Chris come into himself and looked within myself more for its cause. I would have needed some help because I just didn't see the dark side of this.

Debunking the bunk about megadose vitamins

From Opednews.com

Decades ago, when Linus Pauling and Abram Hoffer first proposed mega-dose vitamin therapy as a serious treatment, mainstream medicine and the press promptly discredited this as quackery. To this day, the media faithfully bombards us with the message that vitamins and minerals are useless, harmful or even killing us.(1-6) When one considers the lowly vitamin pill as an economic rival to drugs, and the dependence of the media on drug company advertising, the motivation to discredit mega-dose vitamins becomes all too obvious. Seemingly oblivious to this negative message, physicians quietly go about their business using megadose vitamin therapy in the intensive care unit with considerable success. Recent reports of this have been appearing in medical journals, finally vindicating Linus Pauling and Abram Hoffer as yes, of course, they were right all along

My comment: This is a good article but it occurred to me that megadose niacin therapy is not one of the therapies used in the emergency room when someone is psychotic. It should be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

In other words, the show must go on

"We cannot afford to take any chances with the integrity of the research process," Collins said.

The NIH's tougher disclosure requirements came in response to a spate of bad press showing huge private-sector bucks flowing to researchers at universities and institutes and the like, creating, as NIH Director Francis S. Collins said, an appearance of a conflict of interest that could undermine public trust

I directly put the question to Thomas Insel a couple of years ago. "Dr. Insel," said I, "how come I, a mere mother, can figure out what is going on with my son's mental health issue and what to do about it, but here's the NIMH still chasing magic bullets? Why don't you pay attention to people like me more and forget trying to find the next wonder drug? It hasn't happened yet and there have been plenty of bright minds working on this." Okay, I didn't say exactly that, but that was the gist of my argument.

I guess we can all predict what his answer was. Here's a reasonable facsimile of what he said. "Yes, I often meet people like you, and maybe we should be looking into emulating what others have successfully accomplished. But, of course, schizophrenia is a serious mental health disorder, so I absolutely disagree with you that drugs are not the answer."

Emulating what works for others who have been there is not going to happen when the "smart" money is into drugs dreamed up to combat the continually elusive "serious mental health disorders."

der Insel

There is a flurry of recent blogsphere posts about the conflict of interest relationship between Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of NIMH and Dr. Charles Nemeroff, University of Miami, formerly of Emory University. I did a previous post in May where I voice my complaints about the NIMH's focus on future magic bullets.

In Dr. Insel's own words (I painted in my own highlights):

We must address mental illnesses, from autism to schizophrenia, as developmental brain disorders with genetic and environmental factors leading to altered circuits and altered behavior. Today’s state-of-the-art biology, neuroscience, imaging, and genomics are yielding new approaches to understanding mental illnesses, supplementing our psychological explanations. Understanding the causes and nature of malfunctioning brain circuits in mental disorders may make earlier diagnosis possible. Interventions could then be tailored to address the underlying causes directly and quickly, changing the trajectory of these illnesses, as we have done in ischemic heart disease and some forms of cancer. For serious mental illness, this is a new vision for prevention, based on understanding individual risk and developing innovative treatments to preempt disability.

I highlighted the word "supplementing" because here he is being disingenous. If anything, it's the other way around. Psychological explanations for mental illness have been ignored by the brain biochemistry model. Dr. Insel believes mental illness is a brain disease.

Where Dr. Insel is not even bothering to look:

The placebo effect
Non-drug alternative therapies
What actually works for people
Orthomolecular therapy
Family therapies

He promotes the diseased brain version of mental health disorders because that's where the money is today and will continue to be if the NIMH gets its way. If big money were in alternative therapies, Dr. Insel might be its public face, but it's doubtful it would be him. If the NIMH were to look seriously into these matters, the way it stands now it would become a rump organization with a small office and skeleton staff in some industrial park or run-down storefront. He otherwise would have to go back to being a psychiatrist who makes a comfortable, but by no means lavish living by listening to patients. There is already competition in this area from psychologists. The 1950s is beginning to look like the Gilded Age for psychiatry. The big money is over for psychiatry if it abandons its disease mantra. Dr. Insel would be paid less than most of the people he went to medical school with and there would be no flying around the world giving keynote addresses.

The collapse of the biochemical model is looming. The NIMH has aligned itself with the pharmaceutical industrial complex which is beginning to show signs of unravelling from within. If the machinery collapses it will be thanks to bloggers, certain politicians, patients' rights groups, investigative journalists, and lawsuits. The monopoly on information has been challenged by the internet and it's looking unlikely that the diseased brain model can be sustained. Its end will be like the demise of the Soviet Union back in 1989 which had been building slowly for a long time and took everybody's breath away with the speed of its collapse.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Not a mother to brag, but . . .

I missed Chris's choir solo during the taking up of the offering in church last Sunday. The reviews so far have been good. My spy in church sent me the following e-mail:

Rossa, thank you too for the book. Your chapter left me reverberating like a tuning fork with your sense of resolve, your (inspiring) confidence in the validity of your experience and point of view. By the way, Chris sang absolutely beautifully today. His solo opened the Offertory and was repeated throughout the piece. His voice is lovely, and from where we sat, he seemed calm and confident.

I know it seems ridiculous for the mother of a twenty-six year old son to get all excited about this at his age, let alone brag about him, but, darn, it's grand that he has the growing confidence to belt out "Ain't Got Time to Die" in church. I'm hoping, since evidentally he ain't got time to die, that he will take his own advice and get busy with the game of life.

Bipolar children - what are they missing?

I am sure you have noticed that newspaper articles on bipolar children never mention alternative therapies. In my opinion, diet and nutrition are part of the picture, but not necessarily all of it. Psychotherapy also has an important role. doctoryourself.com makes a good case for the importance of nutrition and vitamins in treating these childhood behavior problems. You often hear people say, "oh vitamins, I've tried them and nothing happened." However, if you investigate closer, as the article below shows for niacin, the doses probably aren't high enough. Most people are scared off by "dangerously unproven" megavitamin therapy.

Bipolar Kids Need Nutrition, Not Junk Food and More Drugs
(OMNS, October 16, 2008) The NY Times Magazine's cover story, "The Bipolar Kid" (September 14, 2008), is a very bleak article. While emphasizing the miseries of living with such a child, Jennifer Egan's article offers little hope except for ever-increasing doses of lithium. Long on discussions of definitions and diagnoses, it is remarkably short on treatment alternatives. Not a word about diet. Not a word about vitamins. Indeed, in this 9,500 word feature, describing the daily life of an out-of-control, beyond-ADHD boy, the word "nutrition" is not mentioned at all. Neither are the words "sugar" or "caffeine."

What astounding omissions. Pediatrician Lendon H. Smith, M.D., nationally famous as "The Children's Doctor," was very plain in stating that sugar causes profound mood disorders. He specifically advised parents to give their children a "sugarless diet without processed foods." (1) It is not easy. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has reported that children between the ages of six and eleven drink nearly a pint of soda pop a day. 20% of toddlers drink soda pop, nearly a cup daily. (2) And, of the seven best selling soft drinks, six have caffeine in them. In sensitive persons, caffeine can cause psychotic behavior. (3)

Food colorings and benzoate preservatives increase childhood hyperactivity, according to research published in Archives of Disease in Childhood, June 2004. (4) The study, involving 277 preschool children, also demonstrated that withdrawing these chemical additives decreased hyperactivity. When additives were reintroduced, there was once again an increase in hyperactivity. "Additives do have an effect on overactive behavior independent of baseline allergic and behavioral status," said lead author Dr. J.O. Warner. So many parents, and any of us who have taught school the day after Halloween, can verify this.

It is possible that the children profiled in the NY Times story are unusual in that they do not consume any sugar, or any artificial food colorings, or any benzoate preservatives, or any caffeine-laced soft drinks. But it is much more likely that they do. The article ignored these important factors even though health professionals are increasingly aware that the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system is nutrient-dependent and additive sensitive. Ian Brighthope, M.D., says, "What is going on in the mind can be influenced by the nutrients and chemicals going into it. You can't get anywhere with a patient with psychiatric symptomatology if their brain is hungry, starved, or poisoned." (5)

Yet in the entire Times article, the words "allergy" and "junk food" are not mentioned, not even once. Children's learning and behavior problems often begin in their parents' grocery carts. Allergist Benjamin Feingold, M.D., was convinced of the negative effect of food chemicals on children's behavior and the role of good nutrition in treatment. (6) Says the Feingold Association: "Numerous studies show that certain synthetic food additives can have serious learning, behavior, and/or health effects for sensitive people." (7)

Another word totally absent from the Times article is "vitamin." Psychiatrist Abram Hoffer, M.D., has had decades of experience and considerable success treating children's behavioral disorders with vitamins. High doses of vitamin B-3 (niacin, or niacinamide) were first used by Hoffer and colleague Dr. Humphrey Osmond in the early 1950s. The trials were double-blind and placebo controlled. Over half a century later, vitamin therapy has still been largely ignored by the psychiatric profession, and, evidently, by some newspapers.

What a loss to patients and their families. I know and personally observed a preadolescent who was having serious behavioral problems in school and at home. Interestingly enough, the child had already been taking physician-prescribed little bits of niacin, though totaling less than 150 mg/day, but evidently it wasn't enough to be effective. When tried, drugs (especially Adderall) actually made him worse: far more angry and dangerously confrontational. I was present when his parents had to hold him down while he screamed death threats at them. In desperation, his mother finally tried giving him 500 mg of niacin, three times daily (1,500 mg total). There was some improvement. With about 500 mg every two hours (an astounding 6,000-8,000 mg/day), the boy was a new person. He was now a cheerful, cooperative, affectionate youngster. Adding vitamin C and B-6 to his regimen helped even more. His school performance soared, the teachers loved him, and they repeatedly said so. At age 15, his maintenance dose was about 3,000 mg/day. He has since graduated from high school and is successfully employed. This is exactly in line with what Dr. Hoffer has repeatedly demonstrated for over 50 years. (8)

People often ask, "If this treatment is so good, how come my doctor doesn't know about it? How come it is not in the newspaper?" Those are good questions.

The NY Times should know that reporting one side is not good reporting. To tell the whole story, we need nutrition. So do bipolar children.


(1) Smith L. Foods for Healthy Kids. Berkley, 1991. ISBN-10: 0425127087; ISBN-13: 978-0425127087

(2) Jacobson MF. Liquid Candy: How soft drinks are harming Americans' health. http://www.cspinet.org/sodapop/liquid_candy.htm Accessed Sept 18, 2008.

(3) Whalen R. Welcome to the dance: caffeine allergy, a masked cerebral allergy and progressive toxic dementia. Trafford Publishing, 2005. ISBN-10: 1412050006; ISBN-13: 978-1412050005. Reviewed in J Orthomolecular Med, 2005. Vol 20, No 3, p 215-217 and at http://www.doctoryourself.com/news/v5n11.rtf Synopsis at http://www.doctoryourself.com/caffeine_allergy.html

(4) Bateman B, Warner JO, Hutchinson E et al. The effects of a double blind, placebo controlled, artificial food colourings and benzoate preservative challenge on hyperactivity in a general population sample of preschool children. Arch Dis Child. 2004. Jun;89(6):506-11.

(5) Interview, in the documentary film, Food Matters. Permacology Productions, 2008. http://www.foodmatters.tv

(6) Feingold BF. Why Your Child is Hyperactive. NY: Random House, 1985. ISBN: 0394734262. List of Dr. Feingold's publications: http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_feingold.html

(7) http://www.feingold.org/pg-research.html and http://www.feingold.org/pg-news.html Free email newsletter available.

(8) Hoffer A. Healing Children's Attention & Behavior Disorders: Complementary Nutritional and Psychological Treatments. Toronto: CCNM Press, 2004. ISBN-10: 1897025106; ISBN-13: 978-1897025109. List of Hoffer's publications: http://www.doctoryourself.com/biblio_hoffer.html See also: http://www.doctoryourself.com/review_hoffer_B3.html

The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

Editorial Review Board:

Damien Downing, M.D.
Harold D. Foster, Ph.D.
Steve Hickey, Ph.D.
Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.
James A. Jackson, PhD
Bo H. Jonsson, MD, Ph.D
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D.
Erik Paterson, M.D.
Gert E. Shuitemaker, Ph.D.

Andrew W. Saul, Editor

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Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )

For ordering information, Click Here .

Where are the bodies?

Below is the information I was actually looking for when I posted a reply to a previous comment. Anytime an anti-vitamin bigot tries to tell you that vitamins are dangerous and unproven in high doses, refer them to Andrew Saul's research that appears on the doctoryourself.com website. (Please don't assume that all vitamins are safe at high doses. Always do your homework.) Andrew Saul poses the logical question, if vitamins are so dangerous, where are the bodies? While reading the answer below, compare the actual body count cited to Andrew Saul's findings that:

“Harmful reactions to some of the most widely used medicines — from insulin to a common antibiotic — sent more than 700,000 Americans to emergency rooms each year, landmark government research shows.” (Associated Press, Oct 17, 2006) http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15305033/


by Andrew W. Saul

Over a twenty-five year period, vitamins have been connected with the deaths of a total of eleven people in the entire United States. Poison control statistics confirm that more Americans die each year from eating soap than from taking vitamins.

Where are the bodies?

A 25-year review of US poison control center annual reports (1) tells a remarkable and largely ignored story: vitamins are extraordinarily safe.

Annual deaths alleged from vitamins:

2007: zero
2006: one
2005: zero
2004: two
2003: two
2002: one
2001: zero
2000: zero
1999: zero
1998: zero
1997: zero
1996: zero
1995: zero
1994: zero
1993: one
1992: zero
1991: two
1990: one
1989: zero
1988: zero
1987: one
1986: zero
1985: zero
1984: zero
1983: zero

The zeros are not due to a lack of reporting. The American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC), which maintains the USA’s national database of information from 61 poison control centers, has noted that vitamins are among the 16 most reported substances. Even including intentional and accidental misuse, the number of alleged vitamin fatalities is strikingly low, averaging less than one death per year for more than two decades. In 17 of those 25 years, AAPCC reports that there was not one single death due to vitamins.

These statistics specifically include vitamin A, niacin (B-3), pyridoxine (B-6), other B-complex, C, D, E, "other" vitamin(s), such as vitamin K, and multiple vitamins without iron. Minerals, which are chemically and nutritionally different from vitamins, have an excellent safety record as well, but not quite as good as vitamins. On the average, one or two fatalities per year are typically attributed to iron poisoning from gross overdosing on supplemental iron. Deaths attributed to other supplemental minerals are very rare. Even iron, although not as safe as vitamins, accounts for fewer deaths than do laundry and dishwashing detergents.


Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL. 2008 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers' National Poison Data System (NPDS): 26th Annual Report. Clinical Toxicology (2009). 47, 911-1084. The full text article is available for free download at http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/Portals/0/2008annualreport.pdf . Vitamins statistics are found in Table 22B, journal pages 1052-3. Minerals, herbs, amino acids and other supplements are in the same table, pages 1047-8.

For Further Reading:

Download any Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers from 1983-2008 free of charge at http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/NPDSPoisonData/AnnualReports/tabid/125/Default.aspx

The "Vitamin" category is usually near the end of the report.

To subscribe to the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service at no charge: http://www.orthomolecular.org/subscribe.html

Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at http://www.doctoryourself.com/review.html ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at http://www.doctoryourself.com/saulbooks.html )

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Become your own doctor - nobody else cares about you like you do

I have been a fan of Andrew Saul's website for a few years. I even got to sit next to him at a luncheon. He's like a rock star to me. I like his website motto: If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. This especially includes your health care.

For those of you who don't know it, his website, doctoryourself.com is a treasure trove of health advice from the vitamin perspective. Plus, it's interesting. He has added some Frequently Asked Questions, which are in themselves very interesting. Here's just a sample of the FAQs from what is billed as the "World's Largest HEALTH HOMESTEADING Website." I like that, too!

Doctor Yourself? Do you honestly think you can become your own doctor?

Very often, yes. This is neither impossible nor illegal, and is more and more essential all the time. Healing is too big a topic for any one person to know it all. While that statement includes me and you, it also includes your doctor. But it is not impossible to learn more than your doctor knows, particularly in key areas. You can go to any book or paper in print, read it, apply it, and draw practical conclusions from it. What you will read is just what any physician reads. In fact, you may discover material that your doctor never saw, or did see and never investigated. With a good bibliography, an inquiring mind, and gradual experience, there is no reason why you cannot gain considerable competence in treating yourself and your immediate family in many instances. Remember that in doing your research you will also learn when you really do need a physician.

How can you say this? Aren't doctors the ones for this duty; isn't it their special province to be the formally educated authorities on health?

Commonly, yes: but a doctor's authority in America often exceeds his or her knowledge. Whole bodies of knowledge in healing are ignored because they are unorthodox and non-medical. A doctor's education seems exhaustive, yet MDs study so much of drugs and surgery, and so little of nutrition, fasting, herbal remedies, spinal manipulation, massage, vitamin and mineral therapy, homeopathy, and more that we realize their qualifications are only partial. This takes nothing away from their dedication as individuals, but being individuals they are prone to following certain theories over other theories, particular practices over other alternatives, and holding opinions as well as facts. This is true with any person, certainly, but it is our responsibility to cover all possible ground in our efforts to cure and prevent illness. If we learn more than the doctor in areas of value to our health, it is our duty to apply this knowledge to the betterment of ourselves and our family. We need total health more than medically approved health. Our wellness should not be limited to our doctor's experience, but enhanced by our own experience.

A lot of the media, professional organizations, politicians, and physicians aren’t going to concur with your ideas here, are they?

Nope, especially since I believe that alternative healing methods are much more than just temporary or half measures. I am not going to give you yet another "use drugs wisely" or "help your doctor help you" speech. That stops short of true wellness self-reliance because it always defers final say to the doctor, and trust medical, conventional treatments for the "real illnesses." That will not be the case here. I believe that your doctor works for you, not the other way around. Your physician is your contractor, and it’s your jobsite. Following the government's health advice, the American Medical Association, the American Dietetic Association, the syndicated doctor's advice columns in the newspaper, or television commercials for patent remedies will not be recommended, either. Rather, I offer some unusual substantiation, references, research summaries, obscure clinical material, unpopular preventive or therapeutic measures, little known or under-used facts and approaches to do-it-yourself health. My presentation is incomplete, of course, because there is so much to know. Hopefully, this will be a starting point, sort of a "health homesteader's handbook."

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Way Out of Madness: Dealing with Your Family After You've Been Diagnosed with a Psychiatric Disorder

A self-help manual for psychosis, this book has got to be unique. As a parent, I am not the intended target audience for this book. This book is aimed mainly at young people in their late teens or twenties who have suffered a mental health breakdown and now have to pick up the pieces, usually under the anxious eyes of their families. I gifted this book to my son and have been stealing time with it ever since.

I am relieved that this book was written because, to be selfish about it, it makes my job easier. The chapters' authors say what I have been saying to my son, but the difference is, they've been there and they are opinionated about the role of the family as a force for both good and evil. For every mother and father who is wondering why their child is still at home on the couch after several years, the advice given here will cause you to cheer. You don't have to risk the high Expressed Emotion of clumsily nagging your child to do something with his life. Your relative is finally hearing it from people who've been there at that age: "Get a job or go back to college," "realize that your family may not be the best support for you at this stage," "you're probably spending way too much time with "mother," "learn to set limits," etc. etc. etc.

It is clear from this book that whoever has suffered a psychotic break has been victimized on some level. The book urges people to acknowledge this, but move on, even if it means distancing yourself from family. It also lists ways in which families can abuse their powers over the individual, sometimes unintentionally, other times not. I, for one, am delighted that my relative is hearing it like it is. This book is written by people who were labeled, medicated, and had a rocky start, but they figured it out and moved on. Others may disagree, but I am of the opinion that most parents want their children to be independent - one of the greatest gifts that a parent can give a child is to encourage the child stand on his or her own two feet. Often, though, the labeled child is overly attached to the parents, unconsciously feeling that he or she must please us, appease us, and generally be there for us. This self-sacrificing is a problem and most likely the reason for the label in the first place.

I would love it if my son began to mentally distance himself from me as one of the many steps on his road to independence. He needs reinforcement from outsiders. Positive views about psychosis and mental breakdowns and what to do about it are hard to find in the literature. This kind of advice has generally been promulgated by doctors and psychologists, not consumers. Dr. E. Fuller Torrey has had a monopoly on this kind of advice for far too long. He is bleak. Do you want bleak for your relative? It is time for a fresh perspective that empowers the person to heal himself. Do yourself and your relative a favor by buying this book and do let others know about it.

You can buy it here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The quacks come out*

I'm quacking up, weally. Maybe it's called qwuee-ativity, but here is my idea of psychosis. It walks like a duck, it quacks like a duck, so everybody assumes it's a duck. Psychosis is not a duck, however. It's something else. It is a grand illusion that dupes the audience, it is a play known only to the actor. That crazy word-salad? Not so crazy if you care to watch the play. The actor is telling you something.

*A tip of the hat to Jonathan of Chicago.

Suspend disbelief

Another variation on the creativity theme is one that I found put me in good stead for going holistic. In a BBC News article reporting on the recent findings from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden linking creativity to schizophrenia, psychologist Gary Fitzgibbons says that "an ability to 'suspend disbelief' is one way of looking at creativity. "When you suspend disbelief you are prepared to believe anything and this opens up the scope for seeing more possibilities."

Creative people and people with schizophrenia see unusual connections in problem solving that others miss. Psychiatry has traditionally labelled this as "psychotic thinking" in its patients. The problem is, when it tips into psychosis, people see too many possibilities. An embarassment of riches, so to speak.

In order for me to move past the straightjacket thinking that is the medicalized model of schizophrenia, I had to suspend many disbeliefs that were really society disbeliefs (individuals have always held beliefs that go against society, but these are considered "unsanctioned" and heretical beliefs). I had to embrace ideas that "everybody knows" are wrong, such as the belief that vitamins are an effective tool for treating schizophrenia, or the belief that the family contributes to mental illness. On this last point, lots of people will say, sure, sure, of course families contribute to mental illness, but they may equate mental illness with mild depression or troublesome personalities, which just about everybody understands on some level. Psychosis is a different beast, entirely. When you observe psychotic behavior, it seems really freaky and foreign. That's where you have to suspend your wanting to disbelieve that it is an understandable reaction to a trauma. No, no, no, people may say, psychosis must be a brain disease because it's so weird. Nobody would act that way unless they were sick, because everybody else in the family is "normal."

Suspending disbelief opens up avenues of possibilities. Entrepreneurs have often said that they simply weren't aware that something couldn't be done. If that kind of thinking is admired in business and science, it should also be encouraged in healing. So what if it doesn't work for you? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Here's a comment I sent to the New York Times in response to the article Alzheimers Stalks a Colombian Family. I have reprinted reader "Jonathan"'s response to my comment afterwards. I never waste a chance to introduce a healing thought. Some people will take it. Others, like Jonathan, well, you'll read what he has to say.

Rossa Forbes

How many people are aware of Dr. Abram Hoffer's thoughts on preventing alzheimers and dementia? Not many, I am guessing. Dr. Hoffer is otherwise known for his treatment of schizophrenia using high doses of niacin and vitamin C in combination with B-complex. When my memory started to falter in my early fifties, I followed his advice and saw huge results within three days. There is something that can be done that doesn't involve waiting for dubious drugs with side effects. I believe that I read about this discovery in Dr. Hoffer's book, How to Live with Schizophrenia. Schizophrenia used to be called dementia praecox, because doctors at the time felt it was similar to the dementia that is observed in the elderly. They changed their mind when they realized that schizophrenia doesn't always take a downward course. Dr. Hoffer also said that the megavitamin therapy is preventative - once dementia has set in, the vitamins offer limited benefit.

Jonathan from Chicago responds:

Every time there is a medically related article, the quacks come out of the woods to pimp their high dosage Vitamin C and other supplements. Do they really think high dosages of supplements come with no side effects?

Orthomolecular medicine has been discredited since the 1970s. Your quack fudged the numbers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How delusional is it when people think they're Jesus?

The comment comes from Marian in answer to a previous post. "How "delusional" is it really when people think they're Jesus?"

I am struck by insight of this question. Jesus was persecuted by authorities and taunted by crowds during his brief life and was nailed to a cross after being forced to carry it through the streets. He was society's ultimate victim or scapegoat.

If someone sees himself as Jesus Christ, what is the person really saying about himself?

Last night I was sweeping the kitchen floor and putting the debris into the dustpan. Chris was there and suddenly said, "that's how I feel you are with me," or something to that effect. He said it very obliquely, almost as if he was encouraging me to take it as a joke. I am used to Chris acting like the ultimate victim, but I was annoyed because (a) it hurt; (b) it seemed like a stupid remark and (c) I thought (hoped) he was moving beyond being a victim.

So, I challenged him. I didn't say that I thought the remark was stupid, I didn't rail on about him moving beyond victimhood, I agreed with him that he probably does think I want to get rid of him. He must feel this at a very basic level or he wouldn't say it. At least he is saying it, obliquely, yes, but at least he is putting himself out there in ways that perhaps he felt powerless about before. I hope he is learning to deal with this by working with Dr. Stern. I hope, I hope.

I find some hope in Anonymous's reply to another post. He writes:

"A belief is only real to the extent that we maintain it and continue to feed and nurture it within our own reality. It is definitely a false belief to feel victimized or unloved. As callous as it may sound once the act(s) which victimized the individual have been acknowledged there is no value in justifying the individual's continuing status as a victim. There is considerable value in helping that individual find a pathway, and an interpretation, where they feel empowered and loved."