February blah

It’s icy cold here. I’ve stopped bragging that since I’m Canadian,  I’m used to this kind of weather. This kind of weather sucks. I no longer have the 40 below wardrobe thanks to the effects of currently living in a more moderate climate. I got rid of the unfashionable Eddie Bauer stuff years ago. Our small apartment is driving me cabin crazy! The only way to make a small apartment bigger is for the people who live there to stay in their rooms or go outside. This works okay for Alex, our middle son. He’s got a new job that requires that he arrive at 8 a.m., so he’s long gone by the time I get up. He gets home usually around 9 p.m. after socializing with his friends.

This leaves Chris. Ian and I are at work all day, and Chris is alone much of the day, which is not a good thing. Combine that with the wickedly cold weather and self isolation is paranoid-provoking. He sees his psychiatrist, and his occupational therapist, and his voice teacher, but that’s kind of “it” in terms of a reason to go out the door during the day. Luckily, he’s got a roaring nightlife, for the first time in years, with his various musical commitments. And, a friend of his from first year university (imagine staying in touch with a classmate when you left university after only one year!) has moved here.

Believe me, Chris is mentally stable and I expect him to stay that way. He is a different person in so many ways that the collapsed shell of himself that he was when he had his full blown psychotic episode that landed him in the hospital eight years ago. Would I say he is symptom free? No. The more he stays indoors by himself, the more his mind races. He still has trouble knowing what he’s supposed to do in a room. He lingers, he hesitates, he stands in the threshold of a room, undecided about what to do next. Here is a more descriptive example. Ian and I are in the kitchen making dinner and talking about our day. Ian notices that Chris has appeared in the hallway, and is standing facing the kitchen directly, but not saying anything to Ian or me. I’ve tried to explain to Chris that there is a purpose to being or transitioning through a room. We enter to sit down and read a book, or to shake hands with a guest, or whatever. The point is, Chris, either get into the kitchen and talk (How’s your day, is always a good opener), or go off and do something else, but don’t just stand there. 

The good news is that the occupational therapist, under some pressure from Ian and me, has hooked Chris up with an employment counselor. Chris has filled out a vocational aptitude test for her, called the “Jackson” something or something. Chris pointed out that all these tests seems to have the name “Jackson” associated with them. I immediately thought of Jackson Triggs, but then remembered that Jackson Triggs is a brand name for my beloved red wine. The Jackson test is kind of bizarre. It has multiple questions that, I kid you not, go something like this.

Would you prefer to raise turkeys?


Draw a blood sample?

That’s all for now. Stay warm.

Revisiting “normal”

Gianna Kali at Beyond Meds highlighted in her post today this quote from R.D. Laing.

The condition of alienation, of being asleep, of being unconscious, of being out of one’s mind, is the condition of the normal man. Society highly values its normal man. It educates children to lose themselves and to become absurd, and thus to be normal. Normal men have killed perhaps 100,000,000 of their fellow normal men in the last fifty years.~ R.D. Laing

Which brought to mind the famous Stanford prison experiment

From Wiki

The Stanford prison experiment was a study of the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard. The experiment was conducted from August 14–20, 1971 by a team of researchers led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo at Stanford University.[1] It was funded by a grant from the US Office of Naval Research[2] and was of interest to both the US Navy and Marine Corps in order to determine the causes of conflict between military guards and prisoners.

Zimbardo and his team selected out of 75 respondents, the 24 males whom they deemed to be the most psychologically stable and healthy.
The participants adapted to their roles well beyond what even Zimbardo himself expected, leading the officers to display authoritarian measures and ultimately to subject some of the prisoners to torture. In turn, many of the prisoners developed passive attitudes and accepted physical abuse, and, at the request of the guards, readily inflicted punishment on other prisoners who attempted to stop it.

If conversion disorder makes sense, so does schizophrenia

Bear with me while I try to collect my thoughts on why the opinion of this medical doctor on conversion disorder in a New York State high school should equally apply to the percentage of the population diagnosed with schizophrenia. You can read the full article here.

CNN–Dr. Charles Raison, CNNhealth’s mental health expert, is an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Below I have extracted what Dr. Raison says about conversion disorder. Would he, using his own logic*,  agree with me that he could be talking about schizophrenia? No, of course he wouldn’t agree with me. Schizophrenia is always a special case to a psychiatrist, isn’t it?

  • strange behavior
  • no neural abnormalities
  • not manufacturing the problem
  • completely incapacitated by symptoms
  • makes psychological sense
  • age of onset often in teenage years

What is lacking in the diagnosis of schizophrenia, as opposed to the much rarer conversion disorder diagnosis, is “hope.” The medical community is resoundingly united in its prediction that the girls in New York State will make a complete recovery. This is great news for those girls and their families! Now, how about the much larger population of those diagnosed with schizophrenia being given the same good news?

Dr. Raison
When I teach psychiatry to medical residents, the first thing I tell them is that patients’ stories always make sense. No matter how bizarre a person’s symptoms might be, our lives follow a human logic, and they follow a medical logic. When a story doesn’t make sense, it means you don’t know the real story.Medical stories that don’t make sense are often big news makers, precisely because they don’t make sense. Sometimes, they titillate our hunger for the unexplained. Sometimes, they capture our attention because the medical uncertainty frightens us. 

The essence of a conversion disorder is the development of a neurological symptom — such as the tics seen in the young people of Le Roy — for which no neural abnormality can be found. Typically, a simple neurological exam will confirm that the symptom doesn’t result from any type of brain or nerve damage. And yet patients with conversion disorder have no conscious sense that the symptom is a production of their brains. That is, they are not manufacturing the problem. They are truly afflicted, and it can be horrible.

Only someone who has hypnotized people paralyzed for months and had them hop out of bed and run around the hospital room, or who has conducted “truth serum” interviews of people unable to speak, only to have them erupt into King’s English, would believe that such bizarre conditions exist. But having conducted these interventions, and more, I can assure you that people can be completely incapacitated by symptoms with no obvious medical cause.

Read more here.


* his surname is French for “reason” 

Labyrinth Walking May Calm Stress

Labyrinth Walking May Calm Stress and Promote Tranquility

Labyrinths differ from mazes in that a maze is meant to be a puzzle, posing difficulties in finding the correct path. Labyrinths are simple to follow, the point being that once you enter the path, your attention is meant to stay focused on reaching the center which each person may designate with his or her own value; the end of a journey, the reaching of a goal, satisfaction, balance, tranquility, or God, Himself.

Finger labyrinths were small, desktop sized labyrinths that could be traced with a finger to relax and “balance” oneself. If you would like to try one for yourself, click on the first link provided below to find a pattern to print off for your own use. Notice that the Christian cross is also occupies a dominant area at the bottom center of the pattern. If you are right-handed, try tracing the pattern with your left hand, and vice versa, to increase the challenge, and repeat the pattern several times in a row before stopping.

Read this fascinating article here.

It was much easier being superficial

Sometimes I wish that I could return to the state I was in before Chris and I embarked on the schizophrenic journey, the journey of awakening. I was superficially happy; I didn’t want to know about life’s darker side.  I  can’t go back to what was, and I also know that my life is much richer now, but still, there is this tinge of wishing that I didn’t know so much, perceive so much. If I feel this way, as a mere observer on this journey, imagine what the full experience must be like for Chris and others.

Most writers, poets and artists of all kinds have experienced what happens when everyday reality is stripped away.  Aldous Huxley and Percy Bysshe Shelley come to mind:

“The man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less sure, happier but less self-satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend”

― Aldous Huxley
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,–behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it–he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

―Percy Bysshe Shelley

More on Huxley quote in this blog