Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia

Radical acceptance – who practices it?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the term “radical acceptance” after spending a couple of hours last week walking in the woods with “Jennifer” (see previous posts). “Radical acceptance” is a term coined by psychologist Marsha Linehan and it means “not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change” or words to that effect. I think of it as “playing the ball where it lies.”

I believe that radical acceptance isn’t just recommended as a coping mechanism for self acceptance, it also involves how outsiders interact with the individual. Outsiders are the family, the mental health system, the courts, etc. In a family situation, an example of radical acceptance could be accepting the fact that your relative doesn’t want to take medication or doesn’t want to do anything that you think they should do “for their own good”. And, you may be right about what they should or could do but wrong about how to change the situation for the better. Another way of thinking about radical acceptance could be “whose side are you on?” But, I haven’t cleared my understanding of the term with psychologists. I’m winging this one.

Radical acceptance is a tension pitting the individual against the care providers and it can feel quite “unfair” that one side has to do the acceptance while the other side appears seemingly oblivious to the need to constructively help herself.

Jennifer’s hospitalization happened after she took herself off the medication, Haldol, which she told me she hated because it made her hands tremble. (She did it responsibly by tapering slowly under professional guidance. In my book she gets points for that but I doubt that the mental health system sees this as a positive.)

Jennifer’s hands are once more shaking because the hospital put her right back on the medication that she doesn’t want to take. This seems totally contrary to the idea of achieving best outcomes by listening to the patient and taking her position into account. What are they thinking?

Her state appointed guardian wants to move her to a residence where her med intake can be supervised. It’s located in a small village half way up a mountain. Getting to her normal haunts will be that much more time consuming and expensive. Jennifer doesn’t want to move to the new place. She asked me to intervene. Without telling her I have done so, I wrote to the guardian asking if it is at all possible that they can find living accommodations closer to “civilization” (although I was more diplomatic in my choice of words). He is aware and sympathetic to the fact that she is isolated. At least, that’s what he told me. The public health system doesn’t have much leeway for these kinds of requests, but I’m nonetheless hoping he’ll prove me wrong.

To sum it up, Jennifer doesn’t want to shake, doesn’t want to take medication, and she doesn’t want to be isolated. Instead, she is being forced to shake on the same old med and she’s being moved to a remote location where she will have little social interaction. Many people say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome.

Who here is playing the ball where it lies?

Booked for safekeeping

Booked for safekeeping is a 1959 Public Health Service instructional film intending to show policemen proper procedures for handling mentally disturbed citizens. It was front page of WikiMediaCommons* on May 31st. Well worth watching, for many reasons, but one that stands out for me is how important it is for the disturbed person to feel that someone is on their side and for the person who professes to be on their side, to carry through on his promises. This attitude applies in how family members establish good communication with their relative.

*Wikimedia Commons has more than 38 million media files, one of the largest free media collections in the world.

How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman

In her book Listening for the Light and in her extensive writings on the importance of music therapy for the ear and brain, Laurna Tallman has not only focused her considerable insights on the healing of dyslexic syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolarity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance abuse, but also on the socio-economic context where many find themselves unable to access the therapies that may truly help them. What little I had absorbed about the Tomatis therapy (the starting point of her work), even after undergoing the therapy myself and devoting a chapter of my own book to it, was unclear and confusing. I had no idea why Tomatis therapy might be key in treating my son’s schizophrenia. Laurna’s book changed that. The Tallman Paradigm is a theoretical, neurological framework for behavior that builds on and extends the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, with an important contribution from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

Simply put, the Tallman Paradigm maintains that altering the right ear with music has a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in cerebral integrative processes. The stapedius muscle in the right middle ear controls the amount of sound energy that reaches the left brain. If that muscle is weak or damaged, the left-brain cannot maintain its dominance over the right-brain. In people with a very weak ear muscle, the hemispheres trade “dominance” every two minutes. That condition of non-dominance, she asserts, characterizes schizophrenia, autism, and the state of normal sleep. The illnesses can be healed by using high frequency music, which Tomatis appreciated for its power, and headphones modified by blocking the left earpiece to force right-ear listening. A very important added bonus for anyone wanting to do the Tallman therapy is that anyone can do the therapy. You don’t need to travel to an expensive Tomatis center to benefit. People of any income level, no matter where they live, can heal themselves cheaply. The only equipment needed is ordinary headphones, a few CDs of Mozart violin concertos or other classical violin music, and a CD player such as a walkman or a computer. Laurna‘s website is another instance of Internet distance learning that people can apply in their own homes. She has several publications for people wanting to dig deeper into her discoveries.

Interview with Laurna Tallman, author of Listening for the Light

RF: I devote one of the chapters of my book, The Scenic Route, to the Tomatis Method therapy, which my son first underwent for a total of 60 hours in 2009. In 2009, the therapy produced interesting small changes in Chris. Not being particularly enlightened as to why he should continue the therapy once he had completed the 60 hours, I thought once was enough. What I took away from my meetings with the director of the program was that Chris would just “blossom” in some undefined way over time. When I finished my book in the late summer of 2017, Chris and I had some free time to revisit some of the therapies that (a) were covered by our insurance and (b) had a somewhat documented body of knowledge behind them, which is the case for Tomatis therapy. Both of us did the therapy this time, for 40 hours each. I felt energetically rejuvenated, but came away none-the-wiser about what this therapy can do for people or why Chris and I should stick with it.

Laurna, I suspect that my impressions of Tomatis therapy are shared by others. Tomatis therapy is expensive. Tomatis clinics usually are restricted to large population centers and the treatment is not covered by a lot of insurance plans. Can you expand on any other of its drawbacks when it comes to schizophrenia and the other conditions and why you advocate using Focused Listening?

LT: Yes, I can. But, first, I want to express my appreciation for the genius of Tomatis that led to important discoveries and my gratitude for the kindness of practitioners who use that method to reach out to people in need. Four members of our family experienced some version of the Tomatis Method and each made astonishing recoveries from dyslexic syndrome or from chronic fatigue syndrome. Those healings were not permanent, however, which set me on my own road to discovery. I would learn that treatments affecting the ear cannot be guaranteed to be permanent because the ear is easily harmed, for example, by loud noise, by infections, and by other means. Continue reading “How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman”

Convincing people who are convinced they don’t need help

I popped in to see Jennifer last week to see how she was doing and to find out if she had started the Focused Listening program (which she hadn’t). She seemed in need an outing so we got in my car and went for a coffee at a hotel by the lake. No sign-out procedures at the hospital. I doubt anyone knew she was gone. This made me think that the staff believed that the headphones that I gave her a few weeks ago posed no suicide threat. Because of the hospital’s liberal policy of allowing patients to wander off-site I figure she has ample opportunity to kill herself and so I don’t need to go wireless for her.

Conversationally, she’s much improved. I disregarded the occasional forays into paranoia. (The bloodbath is still raging in town.) She said she’d like to work again, and that was my chance to reinforce the music therapy by saying that that my son hoped to work, too, and Focused Listening might help get them both there. Any chance I got, I put in a plug for listening to the music. She went to the washroom. I donned my headphones in her absence so when she came back she could see how much I was enjoying them.

We got back in the car and she suddenly suggested that I drive her to her old apartment so she could pick up some summer clothes and shoes. People (she didn’t say who) have been cutting holes in her shoes. She showed me where there was a hole.

When I got home after dropping her back at the hospital I wrote her a letter and posted it later that day. I wrote that the next time I came out, I’d like some reassurance that she had been doing the therapy. I would bring my headset and we could go for a walk.

A meeting with the Board

I took my proposal to help Jennifer (see previous posts) to my Board meeting last week. What I was looking for was a commitment from the members present that the Club would support her by making sure that she has what she needs to concentrate on her Focused Listening. I’ll be moving to Florida this summer and regret that I won’t be around to keep an eye on the situation.

I told the Board that I don’t know at this point whether Jennifer will want to devote two hours a day to the listening. To find that out I’ll make a couple of more visits to the hospital to see how it’s going.

Interestingly, three people on the Board have professional experience dealing with psychiatric patients: A social worker, a psychologist, and a pharmacist. The social worker was entirely in agreement with taking on the “Jennifer project” and wants to be part of the long run plan. The pharmacist had just written her boards the day before on psychiatric drugs and raised lots of ethical and liability concerns about the dispensing of care. The psychologist raised a further concern that the Focused Listening music therapy was not peer reviewed science.

What I take away from this is that professionals will always tell you why something can’t be done. Deviations from the norm can be construed as dangerous and untested.This seems especially true in psychiatric situations. The psychologist and the pharmacist no doubt felt duty bound  to raise the issues, and the Board was probably prudent in wanting to limit its liability, but the reaction is an example of why I think it’s a good idea to limit one’s exposure to the medical model. Progress will be slow or non-existant if health care is left to the professionals. If there Board might have been inclined beforehand to make it official, they weren’t about to after hearing from the professionals.

The President proposed that the Club informally help Jennifer, and she encouraged any  member to informally contribute keeping Jennifer supplied with visitors and focused Listening equipment. Afterwards, two Board member approached me and offered money to keep the project afloat.

All in all, a wonderful outcome to the meeting.

 

 

 

 

A visit to the hospital

I met Jennifer at the hospital last Friday afternoon, armed with my “Focused Listening” bag that included all the equipment she would need for listening to the music. But, would she go for it? Would she even be pleased to see me? I went up to the second floor of the building and knocked on her door. She was in, but wasn’t expecting me because the staff hadn’t told her I was coming, as I had called ahead to request them to do.

Jennifer, as long as I have known her, has extreme “flat affect.” At her worst, she appears cold and disinterested, but I have seen her at her “better” after her stint in the hospital four years ago, and she was kind and sympathetic.

We went downstairs to get a coffee. I noticed that Jennifer was talking, not just to me, but to the other patients. This seemed like a big improvement over the what I had observed over the past year. We sat down and I asked her what brought her to the hospital. By now, she had been there about a month.

“I was doing nothing wrong, and at 7 a.m. one morning they came to my room and arrested me,” she said.

“That was tough. Why would they do that?”

I did nothing wrong, she insisted.

“I’m sure you didn’t,” I said. “Maybe they thought you weren’t taking your medication?”

“That medication they put me on, Haldol, was awful. It is a very old medication, shouldn’t be used, and it made my hands shake.”

“Yes, I remember seeing them shake,” I said. “Haldol will do that. So, are you still on it?”

“No, I went to a doctor who said I shouldn’t be on it, and I managed to get off it.”

“So, what are you on now?”

“That’s none of your business,” Jennifer replied. If looks could kill, I’d be dead. My take-away is that she ended up in hospital because she was off her meds and had no back-up plan. Not that a back-up plan would necessarily have worked. Going off meds takes a lot of trial and error, mainly error until something sticks.

“Okay, fair enough,” I say.

She launched into a tirade about her ex-husband being raped and murdered. And so has another woman whose name she mentions and I don’t recognize. Apparently, a lot of the the people in this town have disappeared and been killed.

Continue reading “A visit to the hospital”

Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse

Book review of Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder  in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse, by Laurna Tallman

Listening for the Light author Laurna Tallman channels her considerable insights gained from understanding the tasks of the left and right hemispheres of the brain into practical advice for regaining optimal physical and mental health.

In normal brain function, both cerebral hemispheres process information, such as language. Both sides work together to maintain physical coordination and take in complex information. The left hemisphere has more control in the processing of tasks such as language and logic, while the right hemisphere has more control in processing tasks related to creativity and intuition. In cases of schizophrenia (and other mental illnesses to varying degrees), language and logic are severely interrupted (deficient) while creativity and intuition are wildly chaotic (hampered by the left hemisphere deficits). This book delves into the question of what causes the left hemisphere to lose its dominance, or, to put it another way, what causes people with mental disorders to become disorganized in the skills most needed to manage daily life (language and logic)?

The brain and the entire body are powered by sound energy entering both ears. The “normal” function of the stapedius muscle of the right ear is to quickly and directly energize the “logical” left brain with sound energy. The stapedius muscle of the left ear launches sound energy entering the left ear on a circuitous route before feeding the information to the larynx. Dr. Alfred Tomatis, an ENT doctor, scientist, and founder of the method named after him, knowing that right-ear sound is a more direct route to the larynx, determined that it is the right ear that controls the voice, concluding that the voice can only reproduce what the ear can hear. Tomatis was not talking about “tone” (the quality of a sound) he was talking about “pitch” (the frequency of the sound being produced, e.g., “C” instead of “D-flat”). And he was talking, first, about singers. (His father was an opera singer.) He thought in terms of “overall pitch” of the speaking voice in various languages. He paid no attention to what caused nuanced tone in the speaking voice. (e.g. there is little nuance in “flat” affect, a negative symptom of  schizophrenia.) He had no idea what caused garbled speech, although he knew the right ear needed to be dominant to stop stuttering and to help dyslexics. And herein lies Tallman’s neurological paradigm: His ideas of ear dominance did not extend to cerebral dominance. Tallman is the one who saw that connection: that altering the right ear was having a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in integrative processes. Tomatis just thought each half of the brain ran at a different speed. Integration wasn’t on his radar. 

Tallman asserts that most mental illness begins in the ear, and, specifically with a weakened stapedius muscle in the right middle ear. When the right ear stapedius muscle is either naturally weak or weakened by drugs, exposure to loud noises, etc., corrective stimulation needs to be applied. More energy needs to flow through the right ear to enable the left brain to assume its dominance in language and logic. Focused Listening strengthens the right ear to increase that sound energy flow. She makes an excellent case for why this is so.  When I came across Tallman’s book, having had some experience with the Tomatis Method, suddenly I had an comprehensive, coherent, and plausible explanation for the origin of my son’s symptoms and a clear idea , thanks to this book, on how to improve on the Tomatis Method‘s shortcomings. Continue reading “Listening for the Light: A New Perspective on Integration Disorder in Dyslexic Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Bipolarity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Substance Abuse”

Latest review of The Scenic Route

A Review of Rossa Forbes’s The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness
by Laurna Tallman

Rossa Forbes writes about her son’s schizophrenia with the clarity of an investigative reporter. She describes Chris’s symptoms as she observed and learned about them, including a very interesting perspective on his childhood for anyone alert to symptoms of early ear dysfunction. She faces with ruthless honesty the psychiatric and pharmaceutical establishments in her country of origin, Canada, and in Switzerland where the family was living. If she had been treated with equal candour and willingness to learn, she would have had a better grasp of Chris’s weak self-control, fragile grip on reality, fatigue, altered learning abilities, and other personality changes, as well as with the effects of medication on his former capabilities. Instead, like so many parents and caregivers, she had to learn about those characteristics of schizophrenia and of psychoactive drugs through trial and error. Like any parent whose child has been committed to an institutional setting for his or her protection, and the protection of others, she gradually learned that the medical/psychiatric profession strategies and medications do not heal, only control. At the same time, she noticed that vague hopes and promises of improvement came with those strategies and that they were proving false.

After three years of co-operating with this misleading medicalized paradigm, Forbes decided to explore other possibilities. She conceded the need for some medication, but she withdrew her son and the family from group therapy Continue reading “Latest review of The Scenic Route”

“Jennifer” Part II: It takes a village

In my last post I wrote about Jennifer landing back in the hospital after two years of progressively deteriorating behavior. I won’t be able to visit her until later this month after my vacation. Probably just as well, as by then, she may be be better able to receive visitors.

I’d like to set her up with Laurna Tallman’s focused listening by giving her a good set of headphones, an MP3 player onto which high frequency violin music has been downloaded, some mandala colouring books for adults, and a set of simple instructions.

Assuming Jennifer agrees to my offer, it’s unlikely that she’ll be able to manage and safeguard the equipment over time and replace it when needed. Who will support her listening efforts through personal contact? (I’m in the process of moving far away and won’t be around after June to help her.) Here’s where I’m hoping to involve the members of a club that I belong to where Jennifer used to be a member. I’ll be asking the Board in May if the Club will take her on as one of their many charitable projects, to replace the equipment when needed, to make sure she’s got a reliable source of high frequency music, and to encourage her to keep listening.

“Jennifer”

I have been aware of “Jennifer” for almost fifteen years. I can’t say I really know her, but at one point I made a concerted effort over the course of a year to visit her in the psychiatric hospital. She’s pretty, she has a daughter who lives with her an ex-husband, and for the past two years at least, she’s become progressively very, very, delusional. From what I’ve seen, and from what others tell me, she wanders the streets every day, alone.

She has nobody in a position of real caring to help her. I mean family. Her mother lives far away. I tried contacting the mother at one point to find out how I and others could be of more help, and was rather rudely brushed aside. If the mother had been smarter, she could have swallowed her understandable anger enough to establish contact with people who were willing to visit her daughter and would gladly welcome her suggestions as to how best to help her daughter. It’s blindingly obvious that involving non-relatives is a poor substitute for a having a mother in close proximity, but it’s certainly preferable to having no one.

I tried calling Jennifer’s state appointed guardian today. The office phone rang and rang and rang, then a message clicked in that nobody was around to take the call (despite the fact that my call was during office hours). The message instructed me to call back later. So, I called back later, and got a woman shouting to me over the loud music in the background that the guardian was out, call back later. I called the office for the third time that hour, was told, after checking with the guardian, that he was busy, and I should e-mail him. Long story short, I found out she’s back in the hospital.

This is a contained opportunity to do more.