The building of a personality

I came across this blog written by an unnamed writer now in his sixties who, from what I have read so far, reminds me very much of Harry Haller, the protagonist of Steppenwolf. In his introductory post he writes about the process of renewal. Below is just an extract from a blog post. You can find out more at Sky Blue Cure.

From Death to Life: A Story of Personality Reconstruction
Is it still I, who there past all recognition burn?
Memories I do not seize and bring inside.
O life! O living! O to be outside!
And I in flames. And no one here who knows me.

Rainer Maria Rilke

This story has been written primarily for a few close friends although all readers are welcome.

Given the nature of the stigma associated with emotional illness, the pharmaceutical bias of the medical establishment and the vast misunderstanding of emotional functions in popular culture it is unlikely that this message would be accepted or even be of interest to most people.

At least the record is made, for my satisfaction , that someone like myself did exist and did transform in an age where this process is relatively unsought and unknown.

I was sick and then I was cured. I was emotionally ill until I was thirty. I was made ill by the psychological abuses of both my family and the larger social world. At the age of thirty my personality changed, I was totally reconstructed. I changed it with help and guidance. The difference in my two lives, my two personalities, before and after, is virtually the difference of life and death. Prior to my change, I was barely emotionally alive yet I did experience states of extreme fear, depression and anxiety. I was able to think and function to some extent but mostly lived either in a state of deadness or extreme emotional agitation. I could not emotionally react in a natural way and so had to avoid most situations that caused emotion. I could not direct my actions or my life to any cause or interaction with others. I could not progress or grow in almost any way. My current personality is as fully emotionally alive with a full emotional range and I have no social fears or anxieties.

Previously, I was emotionally repressed. I was as if dead, yet I suffered greatly as if in an unending nightmare which I could not understand. My conception of myself now is that I somehow died or was murdered as a small child and lived on drifting as a frightened ghost, a dead person yet alive and dreaming a nightmare, a somnambulist, a recording machine that recorded events but could not participate in them. From emotional repression I deteriorated over the years into a fractured personality. I have no sense of “break” from my two personalities, I have always felt a continual flow of self, yet my current self is my full self and I regard my previous self as my dead self. I remember my past before age 30, It was “I” but then again it was “Not-I”. I live now with a strange dichotomy of memories and feelings about who I am. This also makes me a person who is able to draw on opposite types of behaviour to use at I will.

After I changed, over time I realized that I was not the same person. At first, I had thought I was simply “more” than I was previously but I came to realize that I was not only “more” but I was “different”. If I had met my previous personality, I wouldn’t have liked much about him and I don’t suppose he did like himself much either. That’s as it should be.

Our unnamed writer echos Hermann Hesse, who wrote “Not everyone is allotted the chance to become a personality; most remain types, and never experience the rigor of becoming an individual. But those who do so inevitably discover that these struggles bring them into conflict with the normal life of average people and the traditional values and bourgeois conventions that they uphold.”

No more misery memoirs

The playwright David Lindsay-Abaire is quoted in today’s New York Times:  “I remembered something Marsha Norman said at Juilliard,” he said. “She said, if you want to write a good play, write about the thing that frightens you the most.”

As most of you know, I’m writing a memoir about Chris’s and my journey through schizophrenia. I didn’t set out to be a writer, this is my one literary bolt of inspiration, so sequels are not in the offing and I don’t expect to be awarded a Pulitzer prize for great writing. My added value to this generally “misery memoir*” categorized genre is that I approach schizophrenia from an optimistic viewpoint; I expect full recovery for Chris (and me!) and I expect it to come from non-drug interventions. There is an exciting world of help that more people should know about that runs counter to the accepted wisdom today that schizophrenia is a brain disease that can best be treated by pharmaceuticals. “Schizophrenia” no longer frightens me because I learned how to understand its message, however, my initial fright provided the impetus to try to write a good memoir.

Holistic schizophrenia needs a lot more help than I can provide. The competition is almost all on the side of memoirists (see Henry’s Demons* below) who promote the the idea that one day science will finally track down the cause of this “scourge.” Our side needs to be promoted through our own memoirs showing that there is a better way to understanding. There are too many memoirists like Kay Redfield Jamison who set out to convince people that so-called mental illnesses are depressing, lifelong and purely biochemical in origin. We need more memoirists like Jane Alexander, author of Possessing Me: A Memoir of Healing. Now there’s a positive message!

W.H. Auden had this to say about memoir writing: “Our sufferings and weaknesses, in so far as they are personal, are of no literary interest whatsoever. They are only interesting in so far as we can see them as typical of the human condition.”

Many of you are probably already thinking about writing this kind of reflection. If you aren’t, please consider doing so now. The public’s s understanding of how to treat mental illness usually comes from a book or a movie that they read or watched. Together we can challenge the public view of schizophrenia.

*Henry’s Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, a Father and Son’s Story, by Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn (Scribner, Feb. 1, 2011)

Editorial reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This sensitive story of a family’s battle with schizophrenia looks at the ignorance and stigma that often accompany any mention of mental illness. When Cockburn, a foreign correspondent for the Independent on assignment in Afghanistan, learns his 20-year-old son, Henry, has been institutionalized after trying to drown himself, he tries to understand why his son has had a mental breakdown. The Cockburns, a tightly knit family, are severely tested by the pressures of a loved one undone by his mind and locked away for seven years in a mental hospital. Told in alternate views, both father and son write candidly of the illness, medications, and numerous hospitalizations, along with harrowing descriptions of visions and voices. This straightforward, unsentimental book, is a bold plea for more research and cutting-edge therapies to combat mental illness. (Feb.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

What to do when the bright and gregarious child you have loved and nurtured suddenly takes to stripping naked and defecating in a neighbor’s yard? Or worse, what if he courts death via hypothermia by swimming in the frigid waters of a nearby river? What could possibly be worse? If that same young man adamantly denies that he is ill and stubbornly refuses all medication that might help him. As a parent you are helpless when your son repeatedly escapes the confinement necessary to prevent him from harming himself. If Patrick Cockburn’s wrenching account of son Henry’s illness is not affective enough, Henry’s guileless divulgence of his personal reality drives home the unrelenting anguish of the families of schizophrenics. More poignant still are the journal excerpts of Henry’s mother, whose nerves are palpably raw from being in the trenches with her son’s illness and a medical community unable to help him. The family Cockburn’s unique take—by allowing Henry a voice in this book—offers valuable insights into mental illness. –Donna Chavez

Faith works

Holy Spirit for Healing: Merging Ancient Wisdom with Modern Medicine (authors Ron Roth and Peter Ochiogrosso) teaches us how to heal ourselves by tapping into the same cosmic consciousness that the great spiritual leaders like Jesus Christ, Buddha and Mohammed demonstrated. Ron Roth was a former Catholic priest and a faith healer for most of his life.

Faith is knowing beyond a doubt that God works through us. I was stunned to discover how quickly I healed myself when I put the principles found inside this book into practice. The authors tell us that we can expect “miraculous,” often spontaneous cures, as long as we act with the confidence of the Divine.

After reading and rereading this wonderful book several times, I finally sustained an interest to begin reading the Gospels. For most of my life I found much of Jesus’s message obscure and often contradictory. The King James Version uses many words today that are archaic and modern versions of the Bible use words that  are simplistic. I discovered by reading this book that the original Greek meaning of Jesus’s words is often much more in harmony with his message. For example, the word “repent” doesn’t mean stop sinning or something bad will happen to you; its meaning is closer to “change who you are.”  Much of our illnesses are created by our thought patterns. When we struggle to heal ourselves of illness, we must change our thought patterns and become a different person.

We receive the ability to heal by understanding and practicing the basics of how God’s love works. (If we have trouble with the word God or Jesus, the authors instruct us to substitute a universal presence or some other Divine deity for whom we feel an affinity.)

God loves and cares for us and doesn’t punish us with ill health or other catastrophes. Many of us think that he does, but this thinking is not the way to spiritual wisdom. A man blind since birth was presented to Jesus. His followers asked which one of the man’s parents had sinned. He answered that “neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.” And then what did Jesus do? He cured the man of his blindness. These are considered “miracles” to us but they are miracles only to those who are not very knowledgeable in the ways of God, say the authors. Jesus thought with the mind of God and was able to understand the laws of the universe that today we are beginning to learn about as “energy medicine.” Jesus says to us, “as I do, so can you.”

The book instructs us to begin our healing process by purging ourselves of negative thinking, guilt, fear, anger, etc. using meditation techniques that encompass words, breathing techniques and visualizations that spiritually vibrate. Peace, love, joy are three words with high healing impact. These words were used by ancient priests in daily chanting. We visualize speaking with Jesus or another Divine presence and we command/decree that the Divine light, the Holy Spirit enter our mind and body. The Light, the Spirit heals but the body and mind must be primed through practice to allow healing to happen.

Real faith is the energy to command the negative energies out of our lives using the God spirit within us. Decree is an ancient form of command prayer and one of the most powerful healing forces we can use. Decree comes from knowing beyond a doubt that we are a child of the Divine and we channel that Divine power to our authority. It goes against how most of us were taught to pray. Many of us when we pray are actually begging and bargaining with what we see as a fickle God. The authors say this is not the way to spiritual wisdom. Spiritual wisdom comes from knowing who we are (a bigger part of God than we realize) and that we have the ability to act in God’s name. That’s what Jesus did, that’s what the Biblical prophets like Elijah did. They didn’t ask God’s permission, they acted in God’s name.

The authors tell us that decree is something we can do with confidence within a certain period of time, but it is important to practice on ourselves before we go out and practice it on others.

There is a caveat. We are encouraged not to fall into the trap of going into remission (remission is what doctors say when they can’t explain what happened) and then abandoning our fledgling spiritual practices. We need to keep in shape spiritually to be able to handle the problems that inevitably come our way.

How to grow your business

Mary Weiss’s handsome son Mark died in 2004 in Minnesota in a half way house while enrolled in a Seroquel drug trial against his mother’s wishes. He had stabbed himself to death in the bathtub using a box cutter. Being enrolled in the drug trial was a condition of his release from the hospital.

The public labors under a false belief that forced medication somehow protects both the patient and others from the carnage that was witnessed in Tuscon last month. Since the truth surrounding drug efficacy and treatment is so hidden from the public, it appears that the real reason behind forced medication in many instances is to help the drug companies and universities to grow their business, shielded from public scrutiny. It may be the only reason, for all I know. What do any of us know from personal experience when it comes to the shenanigans behind these treatment programs?

Mary Weiss finally wrote to Charles Schulz, the head psychiatrist of the program, after receiving no replies to her earlier telephone calls to Mark’s doctors.

It wasn’t until April 28, after Weiss’s third letter, that she received a cursory response, in which Schulz wrote, “it was not clear to me how you thought the treatment team should deal with this issue.”

Mary Weiss was new to what a diagnosis of schizophrenia when it  comes to treatment actually means. How would she have known the kind of treatment her son needed since it is not available in most institutions and has been actively prevented from becoming widespread? She knew that the drugs were not helping him and only making him worse. If psychiatry were doing its job it would have made the kind of treatment her son needed the norm. Psychiatric survivors have been saying for years how best to treat mental distress but they are ignored by the medical profession. Schulz is hiding behind an uncontestable norm in modern psychiatry. Where it gets tricky for him, as it is for so many other psychiatrists, is that he is on record as receiving funding from AstraZeneca to conduct his research. Mother Jones magazine reported earlier that the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota receives $15,000 for every patient enrolled in these trials.

For his part, Schulz says he’s done nothing wrong, and maintains that he hasn’t violated any U of M policies. The FDA, state Attorney General’s Office, and the U of M’s Internal Review Board all found no link between Markingson’s suicide and the CAFE study. Schulz also points out that he started looking into quetiapine before it was even branded as Seroquel by AstraZeneca.

The link between Mark’s suicide and the CAFE study is obvious. The patient wasn’t being helped and his mother’s pleas that he was getting worse fell on deaf ears. There is a plethora of historical information that says that the drugs don’t work. Instead of helping Mark, a human being, like so many psychiatrists Schulz was choosing to help pharma reposition an existing product. If Mark had been given intense psychotherapy, minimal to no drugs with no strings attached, and other interventions such as I write about on my blog, chances are good that the outcome would have been different. Mainstream psychiatry has long known about, and rejected Soteria, but that’s the kind of help that Mary Weiss’s son needed. Today, the Finnish program Open Dialogue looks promising.

“I haven’t been particularly focused on quetiapine, in my opinion, but on the best ways to help schizophrenic people,” Schulz wrote in an email.

Psychiatrists know there are better ways to help “schizophrenic people” but that’s not where the money is.

Thanks to Stephany at Soulful Sepulcher for alerting me to this evolving story, which was originally published in CityPages.

Been taken so long I’m sure the word is “took”

Apologies to Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds for continously mooching off her post ideas, as I did yesterday, but her post today has inspired me once more. Inspire may not be the right word. I’ve got to vent. Dr. Mark Foster is a primary care physician in Colorado who is often a guest blogger at Robert Whitaker’s Mad in America blog. Today he writes about a teenage patient who’s been on Adderall for years. His father is with him in the examining room and expresses consternation after he gets a lecture from Mark about the wisdom of having a kid on Adderall for 10 years. “But, it’s a disease, isn’t it?” he says to the doctor.

Believe it or not, my sympathies here are with the father, mainly because this post about childhood use of Adderall shows how much people have been jerked around by the medical profession when it comes to mental health. Now, we’ve got a chirpy young doctor telling the old man that he’s got it completely wrong. Pa’s been jerked around since before this guy went to medical school, now suddenly he’s getting a lecture that supposedly everybody else knows but him.

Parents and their idiotic ideas aside, doctors have been the willing handmaidens of pharma and have been only too willing to push the idea that there is something called ADD or ADHD and there’s a medication for it. Consider the opposite. Suppose this father initially resisted putting his child on meds. He’d be up against teachers, other parents who have put their kid on meds, perhaps his own family doctor suggesting that “research shows that untreated hyperactivity leads directly to jail,” and the media telling him that the latest research shows how these drugs “protect the brain.”

So, I often do get angry because I know we’ve really been had and almost no person in a position of medical authority who families turned to in the past twenty years was curious enough or responsible enough to question the sales job.