Royal Wedding madness

I have not been invited to the wedding, and to be blunt, neither have you, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the festivities from the comfort of a blog.

I googled Royal Wedding schizophrenia, and here’s the best I could come up with. Diana in heaven feels she’s being upstaged.  (“I’ll haunt it if it kills me.”) Perfect!

At the time of writing, the Royal Wedding Gown is still under wraps, but let’s see what the situation is in trousers. Does the trend to high waist trousers spell the end of the muffin top?

Before we leave the U.K., let’s take home a souvenir of the happy couple, Harry and Kate. To the Chinese, we all look alike.

Try “not” living with mental illness

Here is an extract from the latest NAMI e-mail on pervasive unemployment amongst the mentally ill. NAMI’s statistics reveal that 80% of people living with a mental illness are unemployed.

EMPLOYMENT: A CORNERSTONE OF RECOVERY

While successful approaches such as supported employment have been around for nearly two decades, the staggering unemployment rate for adults living with mental illness remains a national disgrace. Integrated employment remains a key element of recovery despite substantial evidence on what is effective in helping individuals get and keep a job is unavailable in many parts of the country.


NAMI will present a symposium on July 8 featuring nationally recognized experts on supported employment and innovative agencies that have successfully placed people living with mental illness in jobs and continue to assist them keep those jobs. Speaking at this important session is Tony Zipple, the executive director of Thresholds. As a leader and innovator in rehabilitation, Thresholds has served as a model for other agencies. Hundreds of agencies and others in the United States and abroad have adopted parts of the Thresholds program.


Joining Dr. Zipple are Deborah Becker and Dr. Robert Drake, co-directors of the Dartmouth IPS Supported Employment Center. Individual Placement and Support (IPS) supported employment is an evidence-based practice that assists people living with severe mental illness in returning to return to work. Compared to other vocational approaches, people who utilize IPS are almost three times more likely to find a regular job in the community than people who participate in other types of employment programs.

If you’re unable to join us in Chicago, don’t worry! We will feature comprehensive daily updates from the convention on NAMI.org as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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You have to be in good mental shape to be a candidate for the competitive job market and to hold down a job. If a patient is not able to work in a competitive job market, they are not sufficiently recovered/reconstructed/constructed. (See comments to earlier post.) If the statistics are as dismal as NAMI claims, one must ask, why aren’t these people in good enough shape to seek employment? For many of us, our first instinct is to say “it’s the drugs that stop people from working!” To me, the answer may be found by challenging the prevailing view of “severe mental illness” as mainly a medical problem. Assistance has been directed towards seeing the person as a patient/consumer of services rather than an individual with a unique story. Being an adult “living with mental illness” (today’s version of what recovery means) obviously isn’t helping people earn a paycheque.

Rebirth, resurrection, reconstruction

Tomorrow is Good Friday. The Christian world celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the tomb. For the past few days I have been swirling some ideas around in my head about how I can introduce the idea of beginning to live a life after a death. Those who are struggling with what Western medicine calls “schizophrenia “often express the idea that they have died, they are dead. I have noticed that young men often begin to move beyond through this period around the age of 29 or 30. This is my wish for Chris. Tomorrow he will perform a solo in church from St. Matthew’s Passion,  “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein.” (Make thee clean, my heart, I will bury Jesus.)

This is the chronological age (28) that numerologists refer to as the first Saturn return, when the planet Saturn returns to the place it occupied when that person was born. It is a time of endings and new beginnings. In 1901 Richard Maurice Bucke, a Canadian psychiatrist, published a book entitled “Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind” after experiencing an enlightenment when he was in his early thirties. He made a study of other spiritual leaders and noticed that they achieved a cosmic consciousness around the the same age.

Skyblue Cure has a remarkable blog where he writes about his rebirth at the age of thirty. I have reprinted some of his writing below because he perfectly illustrates an emotional rebirth and liberation from death.

From Cure: The eye of the Hurricane

I am a person cured of emotional illness and schizophrenia. My life, this personality I have now, started at age thirty. This state of mind, this feeling or awareness of consciousness did not exist before that time.

I remember one day when I was almost 30, I realized that I had become alive! I had been doing significant “work” in psychotherapy and had released and dealt with major memories and emotions from my past. Now, my mind being freed many memories of many little things were welling up in my memory, and I had been emotionally interacting with my current environment.

I was standing in my kitchen and I felt my memories and emotions swirling around me. I felt exhilarated and euphoric, I had the feeling of being in the eye of a hurricane with the powerful winds swirling around me. In a blinding moment I knew!…I WAS ALIVE! AND I WAS ALIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME THAT I COULD REMEMBER IN MY LIFE! The next time I went to group, I told the circle that I had “an announcement to make.” Then I announced that “I am Alive! 🙂

I thought they would think I was irrational. However, the head therapist just came to me and shook my hand and congratulated me for joining the human race. I suppose I would have made more sense to them if I had told my complete experience but nobody really asked and it didn’t turn out to be so important for that moment.

From that moment, the genie was out of the bottle and could never be re-corked. I continued on in therapy for another year or so, but in the end, I realize now, It would have made no difference. I was free and I knew how I had been imprisoned and the process was now natural and unstoppable. It still took some time to unravel and form a complete new personality but that was the moment of birth for me in my life.

From: Reconstructed, Not “Recovered”
The person is at a later stage an adult. They cannot “recover” to being a child which would be the time before the illness started. The cure itself is more than correcting initial problems. It has to also integrate a new personality in a now formed adult. So if the psyche is reformed and the personality is new then there can be absolutely nothing to which can be recovered. To recover indeed to any state pre-cure would mean to go back to a problematic state.
 
The symptoms of mental illness are usually not the problem, they are the attempt at a solution. To cut them out as with a scalpel is to cut out the soul of a person. The problems that cause the illness lies elsewhere, often in their relation to so-called “sane” people which have driven them crazy. To revert or “recover” then actually means that the person abandons his cure and returns to a permanent state of dysfunction. The progression of illness itself is the actual cure, the psyche needs to break and reform. This is a natural process which needs to be assisted not interfered with nor prevented.

Downbeat bloggers

If anybody came to me today asking my advice about how best to treat schizophrenia, who am I to tell them what to do? Anything I say would imply that I have all the answers, and I don’t. From time to time I look at other people’s blogs on schizophrenia, blogs written by people who do not embrace the same “try anything remotedly feasible” approach that I do. I like to look at what the competition is doing.

The competition is rarely upbeat. The competition seems sad, very sad, about their relatives. They are sad about themselves. They have tried everything, done everything, and nothing has worked it seems. Their relatives are still hospitalized/group homed/dead/take your pick.

No two family situations are alike, but I do sense a pattern. The downbeat bloggers (DBs) tend to medicalize their relative’s mental health condition. This means they fully respect the label and, while not happy with the efficacy of the drugs, they go along with the idea that the drugs are essential to their family member’s “functioning,” as they term it. Once they have bought into the medical model, their interests begin to extend outward to urge the community to accomodate their relative and others. It all sounds reasonable, doesn’t it, to want to try to improve society when you have the requisite insight and experience.

It seems to me, however, that the DBs don’t want to change themselves, they want to change their relative, and failing that, to change others.

If these bloggers were more cheerful about their own family member, I could be persuaded that they were on to something that might work for others.

In order to arrive at this blast of insight, I took the advice of former patients, who are almost unanimous in their condemnation of the medical model. I strongly suspect that the reason the downbeat bloggers don’t ask former patients for their advice is because they do not believe mental illness is curable. There are no former patients in their mindset. There are only the misdiagnosed former patients. DBs are doomed from the beginning if this is how they feel.

Obviously, there is a place for professional help. However, the goal is to distance yourself and your relative as soon as possible from becoming overly dependent on professionals’ advice and their hold on your life. The idea is to empower yourself by believing in the innate human ability to rise above adversity. People actually can cheer themselves up by empowering themselves. Nobody is born mentally ill. People become “mentally ill.” If a relative is troubled, this is an opportunity to examine your own life, to see how your thoughts become actions that have an impact on others. I often think that the person with the mental illness is the person who has managed to escape from somebody else’s power over their life. They have checkmated the person. They have put them in their place. It’s really odd and unproductive (albeit creative), but it works.

The middle-aged, always ripe for picking

There’s the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, famous for medicalizing human nature as mental illness treatable by drugs. Then there’s NAMI, famous since 1979 for finding customers for pharma. Now there is The National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association, two more of pharma’s good buddies. Where there is fear, there is pharma.

From the New York Times

For the first time in 27 years, the definition of Alzheimer’s disease is being recast in new medical guidelines that reflect fast-mounting evidence that it begins ravaging the brain years before the symptoms of dementia

The guidelines, to be issued Tuesday by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Association, divide the disease into three stages: a phase when dementia has developed, a middle phase in which mild problems emerge but daily functions can still be performed, and the most recently discovered phase, in which no symptoms are evident but changes are brewing in the brain

The drive to diagnose Alzheimer’s before it has progressed into profound dementia is also reflected in a bill introduced in Congress this month, which would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, including steps involving discussions between the patient’s doctor and caregivers, a recognition that keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care.

“Early diagnosis is really the key to this,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a sponsor of the bill. “Oftentimes family members notice the symptoms in their loved ones, but it’s only years later that they get diagnosed or understand what resources are available.”

The drive to diagnose Alzheimer’s before it has progressed into profound dementia is also reflected in a bill introduced in Congress this month, which would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimer’s diagnosis, including steps involving discussions between the patient’s doctor and caregivers, a recognition that keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care.


“Early diagnosis is really the key to this,” said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a sponsor of the bill. “Oftentimes family members notice the symptoms in their loved ones, but it’s only years later that they get diagnosed or understand what resources are available.”

I remember my father turning to me with tears in his eyes, asking me if there was any medical breakthrough that I might know about that would help my mother with her dementia. I was not able to offer any help. I was going through my own struggles with Chris’s recent diagnosis, and didn’t have a clue about how to help him, either. By the time I read about what Dr. Abram Hoffer had to say about dementia and schizophrenia, my mother’s dementia was well progressed. I took Dr. Hoffer’s advice for Chris and me. We both got results. All this to say, that when pharma trumpets a new discovery, chances are there is another option that doesn’t involve expensive medications that produce undesirable side effects. I have no idea if my intake of megadose B-3 and other vitamins will prevent dementia in the end, but neither do I have any idea whether pumping myself full of pharma’s latest bright idea will prevent it either. The first option is cheap and non-invasive. The second option raises concerns.

Rather than sit in fear of early dementia, why not check out what Dr. Abram Hoffer has to say about megadoses of niacin (vitamin B-3) as a way of preventing dementia/alzheimers? Here is a link to a previous post that goes into a bit more detail as to what is involved in the niacin treatment. Anyone seriously wanting to pursue what Dr. Hoffer has to say about dementia can do further research through Hoffer’s books and references on the web.

Robertson Davies: On doctors and psychiatry

Robertson Davies is about my all-time favorite author. If you haven’t read any of his books, you should give yourself the pleasure. When I think of quotable authors or celebrities, he’s right up there with Carl Jung. In fact, I can’t think of any book that he has written that is not intellectually deep, easy to read and laugh out loud funny.

Background
In the 1940s, when Davies, author of the Deptford Trilogy and What`s Bred in the Bone, was publisher of an Ontario newspaper, he invented Samuel Marchbanks to comment on and satirize Canadian life in a short column. Marchbanks disappeared in the 1950s when his creator turned to writing plays. By the time Davies made his name in 1970 with Fifth Business, the first of the Deptford books, Marchbanks had long since sunk into retirement at his favorite haunt, the Crank and Schizoid* pub in Toronto.

Quotes

“Now, very few [physicians] are men of science in any very serious sense; they’re men of technique.”

— Robertson Davies, Conversations

“I was embarrassed to be such a fool in a situation that I had told myself and other people countless times I would never submit to — talking to a psychiatrist, ostensibly seeking help, but without any confidence that he could give it. I have never believed these people can do anything for an intelligent man he can’t do for himself. I have known many people who leaned on psychiatrists, and every one of them was a leaner by nature, who would have leaned on a priest if he had lived in an age of faith, or leaned on a teacup reader or an astrologer if he had not enough money to afford the higher hokum.”

— Robertson Davies, The Manticore

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*Rossa’s note: Fictional pub frequented by psychiatrists and Marchbanks, hard by the present day Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)

A banner day but there’s work to be done

Today is my 500th blog post, and I was planning to mark this auspicious occasion by being statesmanlike and uplifting. However, real life intervenes and there is always some article or e-mail that cries out for my critical comments. Two have come my way, one from the New York Times and one from my perennial source of schizophrenia disinformation, namely NAMI.

The New York Times article on anorexia nervosa prompts me to bang on about the way schizophrenia is seen as a “special case” in our Western society, apparently way different than anoxeria nervosa, which appears to have family causes. The article refers to anorexia nervosa a “mental illness” and discusses it entirely in terms of community and family pressures. No mention of medication in this article.

As a teenager, Naomi Feigenbaum developed bizarre eating habits that had nothing to do with Jewish dietary laws………………….Young Orthodox women are also expected to conform to a rigorous code of conduct, with few outlets for rebellion. They are expected to be chaste until marriage and do not date until they start looking for a husband. Even gossip is considered a sin.

Your child and mine started having equally bizarre habits when they were teenagers or in their twenties, which I fully suspect is rebellion, but apparently schizophrenia is impervious to the kind of psychological understanding that this article promotes.

Then there’s NAMI, always quick to inject the need to medicate and oblivious to the fact that the medications your doctor gives you are prescription drugs and they are addictive. I couldn’t dream this stuff up if I tried. I’m so glad NAMI is there to reassure stupid, hysterical mothers.

The following is an account from a NAMI Helpline associate:

“I spoke with a person this morning who was crying because her 26-year-old child with mental illness had been in and out of hospitals and was refusing to take her medications, but also had a prescription drug addiction.

I let her talk for a while and when she calmed down, I told her about NAMI progams and support available in her local community. I also shared support options to help with addiction issues.

By the time we got off the phone, she stopped crying and thanked me, saying that she was so grateful that I listened and that she had learned so much about the various support options available to her.”

Schizophrenia and epilepsy

From Wikipedia

Ladislas J. Meduna (1896–1964) was a Hungarian neurologist and neuropathologist noted for his development of shock treatment for persons suffering from schizophrenia.

Meduna was born to a well-to-do family in Budapest, Hungary, in 1896. He studied medicine in Budapest from 1914 to 1921, his studies being interrupted by military service in the Italian front from 1915 to 1918.

He was appointed to the Hungarian Interacademic Institute for Brain Research, also in Budapest. He worked under the direction of Karl Schaffer. He studied the neuropathology of the structure and development of the pineal gland and of microglia, lead poisoning, and avitaminosis. In 1927 he moved to the Psychiatric Institute with Dr. Schaffer and began clinical and research work in psychopathology.

Meduna’s interest in treating schizophrenia began with observations that the concentration of brain glia varied among patients who died with epilepsy (more glia than normal) and those with schizophrenia (less glia than normal). He thought that the inductions of seizures in patients with schizophrenia would increase the concentration of glia and relieve the illness. The concept was supported by reports that the incidence of epilepsy in hospitalized patients with schizophrenia was extremely low; and that a few schizophrenic patients who developed seizures after infection or head trauma, were relieved of their psychosis.

He sought ways to induce seizures in animals with chemicals; after trials with the alkaloids strychnine, thebaine, coramin, caffeine, and brucin, he settled on camphor dissolved in oil as effective and reliable. For a population with severe schizophrenia, he moved from Budapest to the psychiatric hospital at Lipotmező, outside Budapest. He began his dose-finding experiments on January 2, 1934. He was able to induce seizures in about 1/3 the first subjects. Nevertheless, three of the first 11 patients had a positive response, encouraging his work.[See Gazdag et al., 2009.] In his autobiography, he recalls the patient who began his treatment on January 23, 1934 in a severe 33-year-old catatonic patient. After just 5 treatments, catatonia and psychotic symptoms were abolished. Increasing his cases to 26 patients, Meduna achieved recovery in 10 and improvement in 3 more.

A major factor in Meduna’s achievement was his selection of patients—9 of the first 11 patients were catatonic. Catatonia is a syndrome that is remarkably responsive to induced seizures. The serendipity that catatonia was considered schizophrenia made his discovery possible.

Early in his work Meduna replaced camphor with pentylenetetrazol (Metrazol), an intravenous agent that induced seizures immediately compared with the long delay of 15 to 45 minutes after intramuscular camphor.

He first published his results in 1935 and then his major text in 1937. Die Konvulsionstherapie der Schizophrenie describes the results in 110 patients. Of these patients about half recovered. The results were much better for patients who were ill less than a year compared to those who had been ill for many years.

His results were quickly reproduced in many other centers around the world and this form of therapy became widely used and recognized as the first effective[citation needed] treatment for schizophrenia. (A parallel development was insulin coma therapy.) A more facile form of induction of seizures, using electricity instead of chemicals, was developed by the Italian psychiatrists Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini. They treated their first patient with ECT in May 1938 and by the mid-1940s, electricity had replaced Metrazole as the induction agent.

Meduna also developed carbon dioxide therapy. The patient had to breathe a mixture of 30% carbon dioxide and 70% oxygen until becoming unconscious, the treatment being repeated several times weekly. Although it was effective in relieving obsessive-compulsive disorders[citation needed], it was not as effective as convulsive therapy, and it was abandoned.

With the increase of anti-semitism and the rise to power of National Socialism, Meduna emigrated to the USA in the following year (1938), to become Professor of Neurology at Loyola University, in Chicago. One of his last contributions to psychiatry was the study of confusional and dream-like states in psychoses (oneirophrenia). He was also a founder of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and a President of the Society of Biological Psychiatry. After the war, he moved his research to the Illinois Psychiatric Institute, where he worked until his death in 1964.

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