Premature employment

The news media has revealed many details about Jared Loughner’s mental state that resulted in the tragic scene in Arizona.

In addition to be dismissed from his community college, Loughner also was trying in vain to find work. He applied for, and never heard back from, sixty-five low level positions. You can only imagine what this did to his already deteriorating state of mind.

People who are psychotic or in the fledgling stages of recovery, by and large, are in no shape for the competitive job market. This simple observation doesn’t seem to be widely appreciated. Mark Vonnegut wrote in The Eden Express that the person is too wrecked to do much of anything for at least one year, and Vonnegut appeared to be someone who recovered relatively quickly from his first bout with psychosis. One year is optimistic for a return to an educational facility or the job market. Medication or no medication, five or ten years or more is often more realistic for the time it takes to regain your bearings.

The family often fails to understand this need for time and begins to champ at the bit when they feel that enough time has elapsed. Parents, often in fear, anger and frustration, push their children to go out and bring in income. They think that it will help the child rediscover self-esteem and, more selfishly, it will make-up for the expense of keeping the child at home. Home life becomes more Darwinian the longer the adult child stays at home with nothing to do. Families’ patience is taxed in the absence of understanding. One of the criticisms of NAMI is that it is said to lower people’s expectations for their own recovery because it sees the person as chronic and in need of a lifetime of support. That’s the low side of expectations. The high side of expectations may not be much better, because it pushes people to do things before they are ready.

There is a fine line between being realistic and crushing all hope. Conventional psychiatric care does a poor job of managing these expectations, no matter where you live. When someone has a breakdown, there is a huge negative impact on the dreams and aspirations of the parents for their child. As a parent, I wanted to see Chris return to “normal” as soon as possible, and to succeed at the benchmarks that his peers were setting. I wanted him to resume university and I was devastated when the doctors questioned all of this in a way that said to me his condition was chronic. The more negative they were, the more I fought against it, and pushed Chris to do things that he just wasn’t ready for.

A better way to address expectations during the crisis of psychosis is to be of the mindset that recovery is expected, but just not now. This would go a longer way in curbing the panic of most parents and it would be truthful. Notice I said, expected, I didn’t say “hoped for.” “Hoped for” recovery introduces doubt. People will automatically translate “hope” in their minds as a long shot, something that happens to other people.

Faith healing doesn’t work with hope or belief. It works with firm expectations that healing will happen because of faith that God’s grace is taking place. Family members should be given a different story than the bleak story they are currently fed. The story should be uplifting.

De-escalating worry

“The more people became shocked and worried about him, the more withdrawn he got,” Ms. Castle said.       
This quote about Jared Loughner is from the NY Times. It is a huge indictment of the way people in a mental health crisis are treated, before they seek help and even after seeking help. While I would like to think that medical help will alleviate the shock and worry attitude directed to the person, unfortunately, medical intervention usually exacerbates it. Shock and worry is an example of high expressed emotion and is studies show it leads to people doing less well. High expressed emotion (and its opposite, low expressed emotion) is a term that few parents are familiar with.

If we view the person as weird, sick, creepy, we hinder the person’s integration back into society. I have written many times on my blog about how the doctors in our case used language and body gestures that escalated my worry about my son, which I, of course, projected right back onto him. I can only imagine how Chris must have felt getting a double dose of worry.

Actually, I know how Chris felt. The more my husband and I projected worry and concern, the more nervous and isolated he got. His last relapse taught us a huge lesson in this regard. We decided to leave him largely to himself, safe to do and think what he wanted to in the comfort of our home, free to speak or not to speak, free to fail a course, free of our daily cheerful inquiries about his state of mind. Positive concern is still concern, so we backed off talking glowingly about his future prospects. We say very little. Chris is thriving under this approach. He still has a way to go in his rebuilding project, but he’s getting there.

The medical profession and its friend Pharma, has made schizophrenia a very high expressed emotion condition. They tell us it is the “most serious mental illness.” I didn’t know any better at the time and I took them at their word. Being “the most serious mental illness” implies that medical professionals, the people in white coats, are the best people to handle psychosis. The medical professionals, of course, administer drugs, which immediately ups the ante and makes schizophrenia a “very, very serious mental illness.”

Everybody agrees that mental health care needs a huge overhaul. I can’t think of a better way to express the basis for any treatment philosophy and practice than repeat the quote from the top of this page.

“The more people became shocked and worried about him, the more withdrawn he got.”

You can also interpret the quote as one of scale, meaning “the more people” who Loughner shocked and worried, the worse it got for him. For me, this is a clear call to de-escalate a mental health crisis as soon as possible by creating an environment of optimism within a small circle of caring. I have heard that the Open Dialogue Program in Finland does this well. Any large scale attempt to do the same generally falls victim to over-professionalization, almost by definition engendering a climate of fear and worry.

The number 18

The New York Times ran a story today about the deteriorating mental state of Jared Loughner.

TUCSON — Officials at Pima Community College, where Jared L. Loughner was a student, believed that he might be mentally ill or under the influence of drugs after a series of bizarre classroom disruptions in which he unnerved instructors and fellow students, including one occasion when he insisted that the number 6 was actually the number 18, according to internal reports from the college. As for his remark that he did not have to go along with his instructor’s view that the number 6 was actually the number 6, a counselor, Delisa Sidall, wrote: “I reminded him that a complaint was made that he was disruptive in class and he said, ‘I was not disruptive, I was only asking questions that related to math.’ I asked him to tell me the question he asked? He said, ‘My instructor said he called a number 6 and I said I call it 18.’ He also asked the instructor to explain, ‘How can you deny math instead of accept it?’ ”

I am one of many people who firmly believe that the people labelled mentally ill are laboring under something cosmic. A quick check of an Indian numerology website gives a plausible clue for the cosmic consciousness that was overwhelming Loughner.

This website follows the teachings and preachings of the late Pandit Sethuraman.*

18 is the number of Mars; 1+8 = 9 (Mars). It is a number of war, strife and bloodshed and a number that denotes decline of Divine Grace and the ascent of rank materialism and selfishness. Look at the following names of cities (or countries) that have their names under the number 18

Mumbai (18) from Bombay (17)
Sri Lanka (6 + 12 = 18; 12 is also a sub-par number) = 18 from Ceylon (24)
Amritsar (18) from Amrut Sarovar (39) OR Amrit Sarovar (34)
Myanmar (18) from Burma (15)

In all these cases, the name was changed to an unfavourable number from an originally favourable one.

•Myanmar is ruled by the military junta. Burma was the rice bowl of the world; Myanmar is a begging bowl.
•Till the name was Ceylon, it was a prosperous and happy land. But once it was changed to Sri Lanka the ethnic problems surfaced as a violent movement that is going on even today.
•Bombay’s name change to Mumbai has caused increase in violence; bomb blasts now occur once every year.
•Amritsar was bloody throughout the 90s; even the army (denoted by Mars – 9) entered the Golden Temple (loss of divine grace) fully denoting the significance that numbers hold.

Let us learn the importance of numbers – how they rule our lives and how by understanding them we can attain सुखः and समृद्धि

Was Loughner that far off by insisting that the number 6 was actually the number 18? The number 6 is the number 9 turned upside down. Upside down is how his world must have appeared to him at that moment.

When will mental health systems recognize that mental illness is an understandable and often insightful coping mechanism? When will individuals respond appropriately rather than further isolating the individuals by dismissing them as “creepy and hostile,” as reported in the NY Times article. When will mental health systems and people reach out compassionately to those who are suffering before we see another replay of an all too-predictable scenario?

“So far I was under the impression that Mathematics had only four facets, but this man – Pandit Sethuraman had revealed to me amazingly that it has a FIFTH facet too. Truly, he is great genius!”
Sri. M. VISVESVARAYA 3rd September, 1946 (Divan of Mysore State,; Famous Engineer)

A rebel Taoist speaks her mind

Jane Alexander is the author of the blog Adventures of a rebel Taoist. Today she takes on Kay Redfield Jamison, author of An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, whose book is widely admired by those who believe in the chemical cure.

Well, I have something to say to you Kay Redfield Jamison author of Unquiet Mind and steadfast promeds advocate. I consider the unasked-for treatment of my bipolar symptoms with psychiatric medication to be medical malpractice. The treatments you espouse so enthusiastically did nothing but poison me. When I first read your opinion in your book I wondered for a few seconds if it wasn’t possible to sue you somehow for influencing my psychiatrist and caregivers to ‘treat’ me with your horrible lithium.

I also find that you wimped out of the full scope of bipolar treatment. You took the lithium but you never took the brain damaging antipsychotics even though you admit you were ‘floridly manic’. You are missing out on the full ‘bipolar treatment experience’, doc. You don’t know what it’s like to be that patient whom you told, “You’ve been given a shot of Haldol. Everything is going to be alright.” It didn’t turn out to be all right did it?

Further in, she has the gall to blame the man’s mania on his lack of lithium. I am not joking. Page 107 “Neither the resident nor I needed to see the results of the lithium blood level that had been drawn during his admission to the emergency room. There would be no lithium in his blood. The result had been mania.”

I mean give me a break, ‘doctor’. How you can be so unscientific as to posit this man’s psychotic episode as the result of a lack of lithium, (and not some other kind of trigger, like, I don’t know, maybe… stress?) This is kind of like how a headache is the result of not having aspirin in your blood, right? Sure. Makes perfect, logical, scientific sense Kay. No. Not really.

The full rebel Taoist’s dismantling of KRJ’s near sainted status with the biochemical crowd can be found here.

He could be your son; he could be my son

I was planning not to post about the recent tragedy in Arizona in which a disturbed young man killed and injured a number of people at a political rally.

I decided to say something in support of people like you and me who believe that there is another way. We will be shouted down by people who believe that mental illness is a brain disease in need of lifelong medication and that if only this young man had been on medication (properly “treated”) then this all would have been avoided. The biochemical group will be vocal, but not as influential as the gun lobby, which will make a better ($$) case that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Anybody who has a son or daughter sliding into mental illness knows what paranoia is. It is scary and unpleasant to witness. People who are exhibiting signs of paranoia are racist, suspicious, and abnormally interested in the current gods of mythology, e.g. political figures, the CIA, the KGB (if you are Russian), the Stasi (if you were East German), movie stars, and religious figures. This preoccupation goes with the territory of paranoia. There is nothing abnormal about the accused in this regard when you compare him to thousands of others of the same age (22) and sex (male) who are also exhibiting signs of paranoia.

Here I’m going to get shouted down by readers when I say that chances are, if this young man’s problems had been recognized and treated sooner, had he been on medication, chances are this scene could have been avoided.

I’ll start with the “had he been on medication.” Sure, had he been on medication, he would have been considerably slowed down, his paranoia may have subsided to a dull grumbling sound, and he would have been home on the couch or in bed, not toting a gun to a rally. But, my concern is for what happens after this. Millions of other young men are being forced, through government policies, insurance companies, lobby groups, pharmaceutical companies and doctors, to sacrifice the rest of their lives to medication for the deeds of one of their own: a young man with the same problems that the health care system won’t properly treat.

The mental health care system, such as it exists in most of the Western world, refuses to address a young man’s mental health crisis holistically. It has constructed a fortress of terror in the mind of the public that so-called mental illness is a chemically driven urge that can be fixed by dumping more chemicals on top of more chemicals. Despite the fact that there is no genetic marker, no scientifically proven test for “diseased brains,” it has convinced a gullible public that mental illness is virtually untreatable without these drugs. Once you are sucked into these drugs, such as our sons have been, the pressure is on to continue to medicate. The health care system in most jurisdictions pays for medication but not lengthy therapy. And yet the National Alliance on Mental Illness is puzzled why 80% of people with a mental health diagnosis are unemployed. It’s hard to hold down a job if you haven’t really addressed the underlying problems of your life.

This young man’s crisis could be sorted out eventually if he has access to a better way — support, sympathy, understanding, recognition that good mental health is a journey. “Eventually” means it takes time. It takes effort. It takes understanding of what paranoia is. Your son and my son are lucky it never got this far. This young man’sconfused mind can be healed, but the trauma of what he did will never go away. That’s punishment enough, in my opinion. Considerably less evolved members of the public will want to sort out his problems through life imprisonment or the death penalty.

So, yes, as a mother, I have a great deal of sympathy for this young man, which is no less than what I feel for the families of the people he killed and maimed.

Hoarding: A brain disorder

I’m sure you all know that Dr. E. Fuller Torrey of the Treatment Advocacy Center loves to use the term “agnosogosia” to describe people with an inability to recognize that they are mentally ill.


How many of you are aware that our beloved Dr. E. Fuller Torrey suffers from this serious disorder known as “hoarding”? Yes, it’s true! Dr, Torrey has a particularly severe case of hoarding caused by a rare mutation in his hoarding gene, causing him to suffer from a brain hoarding brain illness. He has no insight into his disease, and this common among those with the hoarding illness.

Read more of this hilarious jibe at NamiDearest

“Encouraged” from all directions

Oh dear. After fussing over my sample query letter to the agent and twenty pages of manuscript, reading and rereading them for spelling errors and sloppy sentence construction, I discovered, to my horror, after I pushed the send button, that I had failed to notice a big, fat, mistake. I used a completely wrong word! I never use this word, but I inserted it in my last minute revisions. The word means the opposite of what I intended. It’s as if I had dropped jam on the spot, or squashed a big housefly between the pages. It’s so horribly THERE.

I can’t resend the e-mail with the offending word corrected. Agents would assume I would be a pest as a client, forever cluttering their in-box with the latest “updates.”

So, the deed is done.

Turning to other matters, it’s Chris’s 27th birthday today. Last night the choir made bought him a birthday cake. He was really happy about that. He’s been invited to sing in a local Gilbert and Sullivan production. He’s happy about that. He got the Adyashanti book from his parents and a religous book from Taylor, his youngest brother, about finding  his mission in life. I was impressed that Taylor is encouraging his brother.

Chris has a phone “date” with career intuitive Sue Fredericks this afternoon. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a good week-end, everybody.

The birthday boy

I’ve been quite busy recently and not able to concentrate on my blog as much as I’d like to. I posted the manuscript for my book on the author’s website authonomy which demands continuous work on my part. I just can’t leave it there if I want to play the authonomy game. The authonomy game is a slippery slope. Inactivity on my part means I topple off the rankings that activity on my part got me to. If I want people to read and comment on my manuscript, I’ve got to be equally generous of my time with theirs. I’m also preparing twenty pages of my manuscript for review by an agent in February. I remind myself, before getting too excited about my daydream of becoming an overnight literary sensation, that I paid $50 for this privilege as part of the writers’ group I’m involved in.

Chris celebrates his birthday tomorrow. Ian and I are giving him a copy of The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment, by Adyashanti. The book is about what happens after you begin to wake up from the dream state. Chris appears to be momentarily stuck on co-existing meaninglessness and superiority. These sticking points, according to the book’s author, are common traps. Ian and I feel that Chris is capable of applying himself to vocational training or further academics or a sense of purpose that fires him up, but right now he doesn’t see the “point.”

What Ian and I are hoping for Chris is that he soon decides to return to ordinary life, something that inspires him enough to get him out of his bathrobe and slippers and get going. Make no mistake about it, Adya teaches, the ordinary state is where you eventually want to be.

Adyashanti, a Zen master, teaches that enlightenment actually eventually leads you back to the ordinary, but with a newfound appreciation of how marvelous the world really is, and how one must work to add their own unique value to it. Chris is still wobbling on enlightenment’s path.

Child soldiers in Washington State

It is hard for me as an outside reader to really appreciate the complexities of the struggles that other people like Stephany of Soulful Sepulcher and Becky of Involuntary Transformation have been having with the mental health system for their relatives. There is so much specific information that an outside reader can get lost. I don’t know if I am just waking up or if it is well know by others that children under 18, especially if they are institutionalized, are trialling drugs that are already on the market for eventual approval for children.

I’ve been following Becky’s blog about her son’s experience with the mental health system in Washington State. Washington State has decided that age 13 is the legal of the age to give informed consent when it comes to the mental health treatment. This is not in line with the age of consent in other types of health situations, in Washington State. Patients’ rights groups have been agitating to let adults decide whether they want mental health treatment or not, and Washington State extends this privilege to 13 year olds? This is odd, indeed, becautoday’s parents, including negligent ones, are lining up to get their young teens treated. Parents would gladly give their permission hoping for a quick fix. So, what on the one hand looks “progressive” in having young people make their own choices, on the other hand is something more sinister.

I don’t know how it works in other jurisdictions or whether Washington State is unique, but something seems rotten in the State of Washington. I don’t have the time to research the age of consent for mental health treatment in all jurisdictions but age 13 strikes me as surely the youngest. Check out the Community Health Plan of Washington here. Note what the plan says about cases of substance abuse. •Minors 13 or older may get this treatment without consent if DSHS decides minor is a “child in need of services.”

When Becky’s son turned 13, the doctor’s wrested complete control of decisions on the medications away from the mother. That’s what age of consent is all about. I have the further impression that her son was then deemed too sick to make his own decisions and fell under the complete control of the State.

Step 1 is taking the medical decision-making away from the parents of under 18s.

Step 2 is the State seizing complete control by deeming the child in need of services.

Step 3 is even more sinister because it appears, in the case of Becky’s son (and obviously countless others) that he was then enrolled in drug trials. From the impression I have I from reading Becky’s blog, these were not what the public usually thinks of as drug trials, where drugs are trialled before they are FDA approved. Her son appears to have been subjected to a variety of neuroleptics that are currently on the market but not approved for use in people under 18.

Ergo, it would seem that the pharmaceutical lobby has managed to get certain jurisdictions to lower the age of consent in mental health matters and then moves in with conducting experiments on the very young in order to win eventual approval of their products for use in children.

What I would like to find out is how widely known is it that children are trialing drugs? It is widely known that growing numbers of children are being put on antipychotics (off-label) and that the brunt of this falls on poor children but does the public know that lowering the age of consent for children means that pharma moves in and tests these drugs on child users of the mental health system? It is, of course, much easier to test these drugs if the child is institutionalized.