The sound shaman as therapist

Chris’s notes from the fourth session

Before we began the session of sound therapy, the shaman asked me how I was doing.

I explained that I had been feverish for a day prior to our meeting. We discussed the implications of this, how this is usually a sign that a change is needed in my behavior towards my body especially. He asked after my family, especially my father and brother, both away at the moment. He said that there was something I could do for my brother, but did not say what, and that I might not want to do this thing for him. These were the things I explored during the therapy, which took on a very concrete path, more understandable and clear than previously.

The shaman had moved his practice to different premises, such that instead of an airy, mystical environment it was now in a more intimate setting, smaller cosy rooms that felt more personable. There was no staring-out-windows-pretending I was a bird. Rather than playing with my surroundings, toying with the possibilities of super-grounded experience, I was able to be practically focused, to take up a larger living space and give full vent to my inner conflicts. My therapy session was like a dialogue, with my emotions expressing themselves as thoughts, which I was able to interpret because of the sounds. I got the vague sense that time was slowed down, and I could hear myself more clearly and understand my emotions better, without the implications of meaning, i.e. feelings of confusion were the “real” me, not some quest of fulfilment.

With the first set of sounds, I felt I could live inside my body with so much space, every nerve and muscle vibrated with the sounds, so that my leg felt like a wooden bat and stretched as long as the ceiling is high. My mind, usually relegated to my head and stuffed into his tiny cubicle, opened the windows on all my body and became clearer and louder. I began to cry at fleeting feelings I had for people I no longer see and some who I still see. I was not confused by fantasies of sex or violence, which I attribute this time to the therapy working, that my body was releasing judgments on these somewhat uncomfortable matters. I had recurring feelings of pain as I thought of my father and of my little brother. I have the sentiment now of guilt about these two people: I have been unwilling to accept my part in our sometimes difficult relationship. I discovered that the pain can only mean one thing: When I am hurt in a relationship the other person is hurt also, which shows affection on their part and not indifference as I often assume. With the sound therapy I can isolate problems and look at them from an exterior point of view.

Concerning how the therapy “works,” I think the success or failure of the therapy is dependent on my state of mind, and just because I wasn’t getting images of sex and violence does not mean that I am somehow “cured” or need to be “cured” of thinking of these things. I am humbled to say I feel as I have no control whatsoever of the images and thoughts that come to me as I lie down at the therapy. If there is any improvement in my well-being as a result of the therapy, well it is hard to say what part I had played in it, only that I can be more or less open in mind towards the work.

The intuitive mind

In addition to counting physical objects, numbers have a spiritual meaning that resonate with us at an unconscious level, according to sixth century Greek mathematician, Pythagoras. Pythagoras also believed that colors have a spiritual meaning and are aligned with musical notes. Though separated by centuries, Pythagoras, Dr. Masaru Emoto, Dr. Alfred Tomatis and and Chris’s sound shaman are speaking the language of resonance, that physical objects, colors and symbols have a vibratory energy that imbues the universe with connected meaning. Ancient peoples were much more intuitive than modern man. They sought meaning through numbers, symbols, colors, communed regularly with the gods, and looked for signs from the heavens. It doesn’t sound too terribly different than people today who are given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. In Chris’s reporting of his recent experience with sound therapy, he said “As I heard the colors and shapes……” This is not crazy thinking, this is intuitive thinking.

Numerology is these days considered an esoteric pursuit, but not to Pythagoras or maybe not to anyone on the autism spectrum. Some people on (or even off) the autism spectrum see colors in musical notes or numbers. Chris has always been extremely good with math and music. To be good at advanced math and music, one would assume that meaning and connectivity are seen in numbers and musical notes. Out of interest, I looked into Chris’s numerology by adding up all the numbers in his birth date (month, day and four digit number for year) and kept adding until I arrived at a number less than 10, in Chris’s case, the number 3.

According to career intuitive Sue Frederick, a good career choice for Chris would be actor or singer, to name just two possibilities arising from the number three. Interestingly, I seized upon acting as a way of breaking through Chris’s communication barrier when his doctor hinted that Chris was really good in the clinic’s acting class. Since then we have also discovered that Chris is a good singer. Numerology strikes me as good a way as any to make your career choice. Rather than tediously wading through the popular book What Color is Your Parachute?, why not make your career choice based on what Pythagoras might have chosen for you? I am putting Sue Frederick’s book I See Your Dream Job under the Christmas tree this year.

Medications and power

When Ian and I met with Dr. Stern earlier this month we urged her to take Chris off Serdolect and not to substitute another antipsychotic. For once, even Ian was on my side about the Serdolect after we realized that it can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Somehow, Dr. X at the psychiatric hospital had “forgotten” to tell us about this particular side effect, probably because he had finally managed to get me to shut up about his adding a second medication on top of the Abilify. It was only after Chris went for an ECG that it dawned on me why he was having one in the first place. I didn’t bother researching Serdolect’s particular drawback because all antipsychotics have side effects (at least this one wasn’t clozapine) and I am sick and tired of continually being on the offensive with the doctors and being on the opposite side of Ian.

I feel that with the subsequent interventions that Chris has undertaken since leaving the hospital in May (Tomatis Therapy and Sound Therapy) he has a better grip on reality and will be in stronger position than before to get off these stupid medications once and for all. He also has to be in a stronger position to make his own case with Dr. Stern. I really hate having a psychiatrist involved in what I consider our “family business,” meaning Chris, Ian and I coming up with our own agreed strategy. If there were no prescription medications involved, we would only be needing Dr. Stern to act as a counselor. Prescription medications means a psychiatrist has to be involved. The psychiatrist then has gained enormous power over the decision making of the patient and family. I forgot to add that there is a second psychiatrist involved who I haven’t met – the whom who prescribes the medications. This is an arrangement that we agreed upon with Dr. Stern so that she can meet with Chris without medications being the main topic of discussion. Where there is a psychiatrist, there is medication, however, because Dr. Stern needs to confer with the second psychiatrist about them.

If I think too much about this and actively intervene, I’ll be headed for another round of sleepless nights. My new strategy is to trust Dr. Stern to do the right thing with Chris’s fully informed consent. Dr. Stern has been remarkably open to listening to us in the past and has professed a desire to see Chris off the medications “at some point.” The point where that “some point” is located is of course up to debate.

The plastic brain

The concept that the brain is plastic (has the ability to change and grow) was not in vogue a mere six years ago when Chris had his breakdown. The doctors informed us very solemnly that Chris absolutely had to be on antipsychotics because otherwise his brain would deteriorate. They spoke in terms of his brain becoming rigid, like solidifying, but flawed, concrete. Ian and I were scared stiff that we had already lost precious time and that Chris would soon be little more than a vegetable if we didn’t put him on meds right away. (There are valid reasons why antipsychotics may be needed for the short term.)

A person experiencing a psychotic breakdown is terrifying to the uninformed observer, to whom the symptoms must surely be evidence of brain deterioration. This is where science will rush in with neuroleptic medications to “put a stop” to the problem. Pharmacy has you in a moment of crisis and it will not let go of you. The fear of a return of symptoms and therefore a further deterioration of the brain is ever present.

But today’s New York Times reports on how a dancer, who has lived with cerebral palsy for over 30 years, has improved beyond recognition through unconventional “body work” training he undertook. His choreographer specifically did not want to learn much about his condition, because that would have prejudiced any outcomes she was hoping to achieve. It is also interesting that the dancer underwent twelve years of physical therapy without getting the dramatic changes in the way he walks that the body work therapy has achieved in a year.

“Everybody told me there was nothing I could do,” he said. “That’s just what you hear, from the time you’re 5 to adulthood. Tamar gave me an option.”

Everybody tells you that schizophrenia is a chemical imbalance in the brain that will require you to take medications probably for the rest of your life. Don’t believe it. There are many exciting therapies that Chris has undertaken that are changing the way we view what “the experts” tell us is a lifelong illness. Most of these therapies have not been publicized for schizophrenia.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/arts/dance/25palsy.html?_r=1&hpw

Getting out in the world

I had a nice chat with Chris last night. He has decided to enter the annual race next month around our city. This is just super, on many levels. Chris is a person who I have never seen run, not even as a small boy. He just didn’t run, period. (He didn’t even walk until he was sixteen months old.) I hope I am not reading too much into this, but my recollection is that the day after his first sound therapy, he went out for a small run. He has been out nearly every day since. He told me at the time that he no longer wanted to stay in the house all day, he just had to get out.

His wanting to exercise is also partly the issue of the weight he had put on. I told him that the weight goes with the medications and that he shouldn’t beat himself up too much over this by starving himself or thinking that exercise will fix this. At least 70% of weight loss is what you are eating, not what exercise you do. Unfortunately, the medications make it impossible not to eat. Until Chris is off his medications, weight will be a problem.

We discussed how long he should continue with the sound therapy. I believe we have only started. Chris said that he had to keep adjusting to a different reality and he didn’t know if this was useful or not. So we discussed the pros and cons and then he said something very interesting. He said that after undergoing the sound therapy he was no longer afraid. I’ll leave it there.

Old and wise

Sunday, I skipped church and headed to my local chapter meeting of a network that functions as “a safe haven environment for the airing of novel experiences and ideas on scientific as well as transrational, spiritual, or similar topics.” In short, the group is composed of mainly older people with unusual ideas and life experiences. An out-of-body experience like Chris had is nothing new to many of the members. I sat next to a recently transgendered woman in her late fifties/early sixties, who is fitting into her new skin quite nicely, although the early stages of the transition were a bit off-putting. As I came out of the washroom and she was going in, I realized with a start that she would now be forever designated to pass through the door marked “Eve”.

How did I find myself hanging out with this crowd? Well, as I too, get older and more reflective, my eyes have been opened to people who have a more elastic view of what reality means. I see these people as my guides, in the same way that Chinese people respect their elders for their wisdom accumulated over a lifetime.

The need not to panic and to stay positive

Points one and two from Tuesday’s blog post were about the importance of keeping calm and being positive. While this seems self-evident, it is not. The reason why it is not, I am sorry to say, is the medical profession. Until relatives begin to view them with skepticism, as we do with lawyers, real estate agents, and financial advisors, they will control the outcome, not you.

Your doctor, as I have said elswhere in my posts, does not really believe in your relative’s recovery. It is not what he or she has been trained to expect. Their expectations of a happy outcome are not transferred because they lack belief. Your relative’s eventual recovery is outside the scope of their limited experience because they are mainly familiar with scientific studies usually funded by drug companies.

Pharmaceutical companies have a vested interested in keeping doctors pessimistic about their patients. Here is a recent example: “The Worldwide-Schizophrenia Outpatient Health Outcomes study (W-SOHO) was a three-year observational study designed to assess costs and outcomes in outpatients using antipsychotics” says lead author Dr Jamie Karagianis from Eli Lilly Canada Inc. “On average, 19% were in paid employment, 69% were living in dependent housing and 62% had reported sexual problems in the previous month.” Hmmn, this to me implies that there is a causal link between being on medications, living in dependent housing and having sexual problems. Your doctor will not see it in this light. He will only think that this scenario is a typical outcome of schizophrenia while perhaps offering to prescribe a new medication for sexual problems. The job of getting out from under this dismal scenario falls to you.

Just about everything, not just schizophrenia, is outside the scope of your doctor’s experience, so for the really big medical scares of our day and age, if you are planning to survive and thrive, be prepared to reject just about everything the doctor has to say or to convey about your prospects.

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Source: Wily-Blackwell news release

Niacin prevents Alzheimer’s disease

I have been exchanging a flurry of e-mails with my older sister over the past few days. Since my mother developed the signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s (does it really matter which?) in her late seventies, her three daughters have been understandably concerned about preventing it.

I first learned about prevention of dementia from Dr. Abram Hoffer. He experienced great success with his own mother and went on to recommend it for other members of his family, none of whom developed dementia. I immediately started on the same combination of vitamins that Dr. Hoffer recommends for schizophrenia. I felt there was a connection between my mother’s dementia and Chris’s schizophrenia. Both are related to the nervous system.

I saw dramatic results within three days. These results have stayed with me. I am faithful to my daily regime of 3 grams Vitamin B3, 3 grams vitamin C, 3 B complex tablets, omega 3 and zinc.

Dramatic results:

1. Sharp, focused thinking
2. Improved skin
3. Thicker hair

Dr. Hoffer advises that you reverse dementia if you catch its early signs, which he did with his mother, but that once dementia has set in, there is no turning back the symptoms. He also advises that if you begin the regime in your sixties, you need straight niacin, not niacinimide or flushless niacin.

Here’s an interesting background story on niacin preventing Alzheimer’s disease from the Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, dated December 9, 2008
http://www.orthomolecular.org/resources/omns/v04n25.shtml I urge you to read it.

Teach them to swim

Joseph Campbell’s famous quotation that the schizophrenic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight has been passed around for generations as profound “wisdom” and therefore not challenged. To me, this quote leaves people with the impression that the schizophrenic is a write-off as a functioning human being, while in contrast, the mystic, with whom he has much in common is, well, a great and glorious mystic.

The schizophrenic has all the ingredients of a mystic/poet/writer/musician, he just needs help getting there. Teach him to swim in the mystic waters. Support his interests, don’t put them down. Encourage greatness in him. Don’t insist on conformity to our very limited appreciation for who is worthy and who is not.

If I knew then what I know now . . .

Here are my top eleven ideas for helping a relative to heal. It’s all about attitude.

1. Do not panic!

2. Accept only positive perspectives.

3. Be open minded to other ways of thinking.

4. Change your belief system.

5. You are an advocate for your relative, not the doctor’s cheerleader.

6. Your relative is not chronic; the interventions that have been tried so far are a failure. Try something different.

7. Spread your eggs over many baskets.

8. Your relative is not brain-diseased, but is reacting this way for a reason. Be empathetic. Hold his or her hand and say “I understand you are angry/afraid/whatever and you have every right to be.” You don’t know why, at this point, so don’t probe, just be there and be sympathetic and keep your mouth closed.

9. Indulge in self-examination.

10. This is a crisis only. There is an opportunity here for you and your relative to grow.

11. Beware declaring victory too soon.