The Quiet Room

Now that I’ve finished writing my own book, I’ve got time to catch up on what I haven’t been reading. The Quiet Room:A Journey Out of the Torment of Madness, by Lori Schiller and Amanda Bennett, wasn’t on my “must read” list because I had heard that, in the end, Schiller credits her recovery largely to clozapine, and that didn’t set well with my understanding of what a “good” recovery should be attributed to. I’ve become less hardline on recoveries since then. So, looking for a good read, I purchased the book on Kindle.

As an aside, just about all my reviews gets four or five stars for the simple reason that they come highly recommended by other readers. I don’t finish books that I don’t enjoy.

So, five stars for The Quiet Room. The memoir is rather unique because it tells Lori’s story not only from her perspective, but also from each of her parents’, her brothers’, her psychiatrist. They tell their sides of the story with brutal honestly, which is refreshing. What I find interesting about this 1994 book is that it was published in a decade that saw the biomedical model of mental illness take off. There was talk in the book along the lines of “getting the chemistry right,” “finding the right drug and drug combinations” and how the newer antipsychotics were changing the treatment landscape. Lori Schiller Continue reading “The Quiet Room”

A psychophysical approach to treating schizophrenia

In my memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness (coming out in the New Year), I devote part of a chapter to The Alexander Technique. In researching the technique, I came across the name of Kitty Merrick Wielopolska who was a student of the technique in the 1930s. I haven’t read her book, but it seems that it would be well worth adding to a collection of schizophrenia memoirs that have credited healing to a non-mainstream approach. In this interview, I also learned for the first time about a relatively recent psychotherapy (phenomenological psychotherapy) which my experience tells me shows great promise in breaking the habitual patterns of thought that Alexander termed a “misuse of the self.”

Never Ask Why

THE LIFE ADVENTURE OF KITTY WIELOPOLSKA (1900-1988)
Her experience with the Alexander Work, schizophrenia and the psychic state

Published by Novis Publications, January, 2002. www.novis.dk

(NOVIS is a small publishing company specializing in publishing literature on the Alexander Technique)

The following is from Joe Armstrong’s interview with Kitty that was published in 2001 several years after her death

From the moment I met Kitty (Catharine Merrick) Wielopolska in 1966 – over ten years before we began recording these stirring conversations about her struggle with schizophrenia 1  – I felt she was an extraordinary person. But after hearing for the first time in these talks about her many breakdowns and the inspiration for getting herself well that she found in the Alexander Work, 2  I realized that there were many more reasons why she was so very remarkable than I could ever have imagined.
While these conversations don’t claim that Kitty used the Alexander Work itself as a direct means to her recovery, 3  I believe they do show that her intensive experience of it had a substantial indirect influence on her ability to find her way to health. This is because the Alexander Work is based on the conception that it is impossible to separate “mental” and “physical” processes in any form of human activity, and it would therefore require us to regard a condition like schizophrenia not just as a “mental disorder.” It would also require us to take into account the “use” of the whole person when diagnosing the disorder and searching for ways to treat it. “Use,” in Alexander terminology, refers to our combined manners of responding, moving, and thinking as they are manifested in our overall behavior at any given moment, whether the behavior is governed subconsciously by our habits or is consciously guided by our chosen intention.

With that in mind, it’s very interesting to read that at least one branch of psychiatry has recently been taking a psychophysical approach to schizophrenia and is focusing on the same area of concern that F.M. Alexander found to be central in re-educating the use of ourselves as a whole. Phenomenological psychiatrists such as Shaun Gallagher are considering the possibility that the “voices” heard by people diagnosed as schizophrenic stem essentially from a breakdown in what he calls our “protentional function.” This governs our ability to “anticipate experience which is just about to happen,” in contrast to our “retentional function,” which governs how we “retain previous phases of consciousness and their intentional content.” Gallagher also says that our sense of “agency” in both motor action and cognition “depends upon  Continue reading “A psychophysical approach to treating schizophrenia”

Ketogenic diet and schizophrenia

The case for the link between inflammation and schizophrenia is getting stronger.

From Psychiatry Advisor

A specialized weight loss diet preferred by some bodybuilders may be effective in treating schizophrenia, according to research published in Schizophrenia Research

Although further studies using other animal models are needed to confirm these findings, the authors wrote that “as [a ketogenic diet] has been safely and effectively administered to humans in different pathological conditions, [this treatment] has the potential to be swiftly translated into a novel, safe and effective management of schizophrenia.”

Reference

Kraeuter AK, Loxton H, Lima BC, Rudd D, Sarnyai Z. Ketogenic diet reverses behavioral abnormalities in an acute NMDA receptor hypofunction model of schizophreniaSchizophr Res. 2015; doi:10.1016/j.schres.2015.10.041.

A case report From US National Library of Medicine  National Institutes of Mental Health website

Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009; 6: 10.
Published online 2009 Feb 26. doi:  10.1186/1743-7075-6-10
PMCID: PMC2652467

Schizophrenia, gluten, and low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diets: a case report and review of the literature

Abstract

We report the unexpected resolution of longstanding schizophrenic symptoms after starting a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. After a review of the literature, possible reasons for this include the metabolic consequences from the elimination of gluten from the diet, and the modulation of the disease of schizophrenia at the cellular level.

Case report

C.D. is a 70 year-old Caucasian female with a diagnosis of schizophrenia since the age of seventeen. Her diagnosis was based on paranoia, disorganized speech, and hallucinations. She reported both auditory and visual hallucinations, including seeing skeletons and hearing voices that told her to hurt herself. According to her history, she has had these hallucinations on almost a daily basis since the age of seven. C.D. has also been hospitalized at least five times over the last six years for suicide attempts and increased psychotic symptoms. She has attempted to overdose on medications, cut herself, and ingest cleaning agents. Her most recenthospitalization was five months prior to initiating the low-carbohydrate diet. She has discussed both her suicidal ideations and her hallucinations with her psychiatrist who has tried to optimize her medication regimen in an effort to improve her symptoms, but this has been largely unsuccessful. Her prior anti-psychotic and mood-stabilizing medication regimen has included lithium 900 mg qhs, olanzapine (dose unknown), ziprasidone 40 mg bid, aripiprazole 30 mg qhs, lamotrigine 100 mg bid, and quetiapine 900 mg qhs. She is currently managed on risperidone 4 mg qhs.

Continue reading “Ketogenic diet and schizophrenia”

Writing my way through The Scenic Route

Forgive me the continuous play on words that are scattered in this post. In August, I came to the end of the road on my ten year writing journey to document the healing journey that my son and I embarked upon. The Scenic Route will be published in January. Why did it take so long you may well ask? For one, I’m not a writer. I became a writer over the course of the journey, partly as a way of holding on to my own sanity by having a Purpose in life. Finding a purpose in life is one of the many side roads that Chris and I ventured off on, me doing the driving and he mainly along for the ride, at least for a good part of these years. I felt sure that if he found a Purpose in life, too, perhaps he would eventually take over the steering wheel.

Chapter 46 opens when Chris is 27, which is 7 years after his first psychotic breakdown, and after multiple therapies have been tried. Continue reading “Writing my way through The Scenic Route”

What doctors should believe about recovery (and often don’t)

“Monsieur Auclair,” Saint-Vallier spoke up sharply. “I feel that you evade me. Do you yourself believe that the Count will recover?”

“I must ask your indulgence, Monseigneur, but in a case like the Count’s, a medical advisor should not permit himself to believe in anything but recovery. His doubts would affect the patient. If the Count still has the vital force I have always found in him, he will recover.”

From Shadows On The Rock, a superb historical novel published in 1931 by Willa Cather.

“….this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women who struggled to adapt to that new world even as they clung to the artifacts and manners of the one they left behind.” (Vintage Classics, 1995)

Baby aspirin as a possible treatment for schizophrenia

I’ve said it many times. I’m a slow learner. For several years I have read the news and reports about the latest theory that conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar, and depression are linked to the body’s autoimmune system producing a low grade inflammation of the gut and brain. I set this theory aside, figuring that by the time pharma produces a new medication with side effects, another theory will have taken hold.

Last night I was wide awake at 2 a.m., my thoughts pinballing their way as usual around my brain. I was trying to get back to sleep by practicing mindfulness techniques, when suddenly I had a eureka moment. Baby aspirin! Why not baby aspirin for schizophrenia? It’s an anti-inflammatory. I’ve been taking baby aspirin for the past three years to reduce the risk of inflammation leading to heart attack and stroke, but it never occurred to  me to think that it might also be considered a possible treatment for schizophrenia.

This morning I did a bit of google research and discovered that, indeed, researchers have been on to this possibility for several years. If you “do the research” like I did (lol) you’ll see that some articles are quick to say that baby aspirin appears to be an effective “add on” to your normal intake of antipsychotics or antidepressants. Just an add on, not taken on its own. But it you dig a bit further, you’ll come across a different story – that some scientists hope that anti-inflammatory agents such as baby aspirin may eventually  replace the need for prescription drugs.

From the website of a for-profit treatment center: “A number of studies in recent years have drawn connections between schizophrenia and the immune system and have suggested that anti-inflammatory medications may improve treatment of this illness. The immune system has been linked to various psychiatric disorders, and research has associated the HLA gene system in particular (a system that plays a controlling role in various aspects of the immune system) with schizophrenia.

The Dutch study looked at a range of the best of these studies—all double-blind, randomized controlled trials—in order to determine if there was strong evidence in favor of the use of anti-inflammatory medications in combination with antipsychotic drugs. They found that a number of anti-inflammatory agents improved the results of antipsychotic drugs for schizophrenic patients.”

From an article in The Daily Mail:

“As soon as the word depression is mentioned, we tend to think of a mental problem that may need treatment with antidepressant drugs, with all their risk of side-effects such as weight gain and loss of libido.

But what if it actually has a physical cause that could be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen, or even antibiotics?

This is the fascinating possibility being explored by scientists at Cambridge University.”

“The Cambridge team’s hope is that by teasing out the link between inflammation and depression, they may be able to help prevent thousands of deaths among those who suffer from the mood disorder — and prevent people needlessly being on antidepressant drugs.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3077263/Can-ASPIRIN-banish-depression-Scientists-say-illness-caused-inflammation-body.html#ixzz4iBvs8xXA

 

 

Recovery and peer support, or the medical model. Why must it be “either/or”?

Today’s post is from Pete Earley’s blog. There is yet another battle currently being waged in the United States, this time over the appointment of the Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. The introductory paragraph is clear as to what issues are at stake.

Harvey Rosenthal: The “Worried Well” – A False Narrative Meant To Divide

BY PETE EARLEY

(5-15-17) I bumped into Harvey Rosenthal recently at the National Council on Behavioral Health Care convention in Seattle and invited him to write a guest blog. Harvey is Executive Director of the New York Association of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services and one of the best known advocates for recovery and peer support services. Given what seems to be a constant battle being waged between the “medical model” that focuses on medication adherence and the “recovery model” that focuses on peer support and other social services, I thought it would helpful to hear his point of view, especially because a new Assistant Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Abuse will soon be appointed.)

Re-Balancing Federal Policy Need Not Have To Choose Between Extremes

BY HARVEY ROSENTHAL

For far too long, advocates for court mandated outpatient commitment have promoted the false narrative that recovery, rehabilitation and peer support providers and advocates don’t want to serve Americans with the most serious conditions…..and that our motivation in supporting the redirection of public funds from hospital to community is simply to capture public dollars for our own purposes. In contrast, these groups have outrageously played upon unfounded connections between violence and mental illness to promote a singular one-size-fit-all prescription of “more meds, more beds and more coercion.”

Along the way, these groups have promoted beliefs that a recovery and rehab focus only applies to the ‘worried well’ and excludes the most distressed, that peer support is inevitably against treatment and medication and that rights advocates are only interested in helping people in the greatest need to avoid such treatment?In recent years, subscribers to these beliefs have succeeded in capturing the attention and support of conservative Republicans, think tanks and the tabloids. They have heavily informed the efforts of self-styled mental health reformer Rep. Tim Murphy and are apparently poised to see the appointment of an apparently like-minded first HHS Assistant Secretary for Mental Health Services.

Advocates across our spectrum must join together to educate both the Senate that will be confirming the first HHS Secretary Read the rest of the post here

 

 

A new documentary CRAZYWISE: How western cultures treat spiritual awakening, available free until March 28

Phil Borges is an award winning photographer and documentary film maker who has spent many years photographing and documenting the practices of indigenous and tribal peoples. He observed the mystical practices of the shamans (healers) who command a respected place in their cultures, and then he wondered: Where are the healers and the shamans in our western cultures? Many of them he found on the streets, a sad commentary on our go-it-alone culture.

From the CRAZYWISE synopsis:

Through interviews with renowned mental health professionals including Gabor Mate, MD, Robert Whitaker, and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD, Phil explores the growing severity of the mental health crisis in America dominated by biomedical psychiatry. He discovers a growing movement of professionals and psychiatric survivors who demand alternative treatments that focus on recovery, nurturing social connections, and finding meaning.

CRAZYWISE follows two young Americans diagnosed with “mental illness.” Adam, 27, suffers devastating side effects from medications before embracing meditation in hopes of recovery. Ekhaya, 32, survives childhood molestation and several suicide attempts before spiritual training to become a traditional South African healer gives her suffering meaning and brings a deeper purpose to her life.

CRAZYWISE doesn’t aim to over-romanticize indigenous wisdom, or completely condemn Western treatment. Not enery indigenous person who has a crisis becomes a shaman. And many individuals benefit from Western medications.

CRAZYWISE is intended to heighten our awareness of how we treat our mentally ill in western cultures and it proposes solutions. Please watch this paradigm changing film, and spread the word! 

This film is available until March 28: https://vimeo.com/201079582/37ea6dd390

A townhall meeting surr0unding the launch of the film can be viewed viewed on YouTube.  You can also find it on the CRAZYWISE website.

 

Recovery: Pushing them too soon?

In case you’re getting impatient with the slow progress your relative may be demonstrating, I thought I’d share Chris’s experience taking courses. The ability to pay income tax (and, by my inference, to succeed at training courses) is almost the gold standard for recovery (in addition to getting along well within the family and the wider community) according to Doctor Abram Hoffer.

Here’s a long list of the courses Chris attempted, beginning at about age 21, a year after he was first hospitalized.

  1. Audited an art history course (managed to hang on mainly due to the heroic efforts of the professor to accommodate his behavior)
  2. Passed a political science semester course
  3. Quit another polysci course due to worsening symptoms
  4. Enrolled in a month long physics course and lived away from home – didn’t keep up with assignments and, obviously, failed. Final grade about 5%, if I recall.
  5. Failed to submit final work for a communications course
  6. Took refresher math lessons with a tutor; too distracted to concentrate
  7. Enrolled in a three-week French course – quit about day 3. Too anxious.
  8. Took an online music theory certificate course for a semester – I think he passed. It was so long ago.
  9. Resumed piano lessons – didn’t practice much. Stopped the lessons.
  10. Enrolled in a three-week computer course. Passed first module
  11. Enrolled in second three-week computer module. Failed second module
  12. Enrolled in an intensive French course – passed
  13. Enrolled in the next level of the French course – passed
  14. Enrolled in a sound engineering certificate program for one year – not quite making the grade. Quit.
  15. Enrolled in online math course – in progress
  16. Resumed taking piano lessons – as of last week

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have encouraged Chris to become a student until he was much older and further into his recovery. Chris simply wasn’t ready until HE decided he wanted to do something more, which began around the age of 28 (course number 11 onwards). Getting there has been slow and unpredictable, but Chris has changed a lot and is finally seeing that he if wants to make something of his life, only he can do it.

 

Eric Maisel interviews me in Psychology Today series

Welcome to Childhood Made Crazy, an interview series that takes a critical look at the current “mental disorders of childhood” model. This series is comprised of interviews with practitioners, parents, and other children’s advocates as well as pieces that investigate fundamental questions in the mental health field. Visit the following page to learn more about the series, to see which interviews are coming, and to learn about the topics under discussion:

http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/

Rossa Forbes is a blogger with an upbeat and decidedly offbeat mom’s perspective on the journey of schizophrenia. Her memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness will be published early next year by Inspired Creations LLC.

EM: How would you suggest a parent think about being told that his or her child meets the criteria for a mental disorder and ought to go on one or more psychiatric medication for his or her diagnosed mental disorder or mental illness?

RF: Before going down that road I would insist that the doctor conduct a thorough medical history to assess whether there is an underlying medical condition, e.g. Lyme disease, brain tumor, or an autoimmune condition.

As it is only quite recently (2007) that the link between psychosis and an autoimmune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis has been made, it is possible that researchers are already identifying other antibodies in the blood and spinal fluid with links to psychosis.

Do keep in mind that doctors know very little about how the drugs work or what causes mental illness. The word “medication” (as opposed to “drug”) implies the presence of a disease state that can be successfully treated pharmaceutically.  As schizophrenia (the mental illness with which I’m most familiar) is considered by the medical profession to be incurable, in the same way that they consider most mental illnesses incurable, this negates the idea that a medication exists that can treat it.

The drugs are actually major tranquillizers and they are generally effective at dampening psychosis –masking it, not getting rid of it. In the process, these drugs make the person sluggish and prone to weight gain and other side effects.

I know from experience, how hard it is to manage “schizophrenia” without resorting to a prescription drug. I do think it is possible, but I think most parents initially are not in any way familiar with how to do this. Acquiring this knowledge may take years of trial and error, although there are online courses that are beginning to teach these skills.

Read the rest of the interview here