Tips for the modern parent living with a schizophrenic child

From Ann Weinberg’s blog.
Tips for the Modern Parent Living with a Schizophrenic Child
(Ann, a South Africa writer and poet, is the author of The Danny Diaries, which I enthusiastically reviewed on Amazon.)

Ann writes:
My book was a Godsend for me. Many people have asked me why I wrote it. Simply, I was asked to. People have all sorts of theories about why I wrote it. “To get it out of your soul” they say. But I had long since moved on. I thought it was a good story and I also thought it might help people. I love making a book out of good material. This is the “artist” in me.

It took a lot to create the story and recount living day to day through the storm. How did I do it? Good question. It was important to keep my basic bonds strong – like the one I had with my husband. There was no “light at the end of the day”. We didn’t know whether he would ever entirely recover. We simply had to cope. You do get used to it.

Because of MY life story, I have developed some tips for parents when dealing with your child.

read the rest here

A Royal recovery story

Now that George Alexander Louis, great-grandson to Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth II, is in the news, let’s take a look at his lesser known ancestor, Philip’s mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark.

It’s quite the recovery story.

from Wiki
In 1930, after suffering a severe nervous breakdown, Princess Andrew was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, first by Thomas Ross, a psychiatrist who specialised in shell-shock, and subsequently by Sir Maurice Craig, who treated the future King George VI before he had speech therapy.[26] The diagnosis was confirmed at Dr Ernst Simmel’s sanatorium at Tegel, Berlin.[27] She was forcibly removed from her family and placed in Dr Ludwig Binswanger’s sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.[28] It was a famous and well-respected institution with several celebrity patients, including Vaslav Nijinsky, the ballet dancer and choreographer, who was there at the same time as Princess Andrew.[29] Binswanger also diagnosed schizophrenia. Both he and Simmel consulted Sigmund Freud who believed that the princess’s delusions were the result of sexual frustration. He recommended “X-raying her ovaries in order to kill off her libido.” Princess Andrew protested her sanity and repeatedly tried to leave the asylum.[26]

During Princess Andrew’s long convalescence, she and Prince Andrew drifted apart, her daughters all married German princes in 1930 and 1931 (she did not attend any of the weddings), and Prince Philip went to England to stay with his uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten and George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, and his grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven.[30]

read about her remarkable recovery here

Reviewing the past eight years

Summertime and my thinkin’ is hazy…… It’s so hot here that I am not much good doing anything. I’ve got deadlines, though. I’ll be retiring from work at the end of November. I’d been using that date as the point where I plan to begin the task of finishing my long overdue memoir, but have been snatching time when I can at night to review the chapters once more.  I want to stop talking about it, forget about dotting every “i” and crossing every “t” and just get it out there as an e-book. A lot of the reason for the delay is that, well, frankly, I’m no writer, and I had a lot to learn about effective writing.

So much has changed in the world of mental health since I began my book eight years ago, most importantly, Robert Whitaker’s book, Anatomy of an Epidemic, which came out in 2010. As painful as it was to read, the research it presented vindicated my own experience with my son’s inadequate (but very costly) medical treatment.

An interview with well-known neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Nancy Andreasen appeared in Sept. 2009 in the New York Times, in which she reveals her research finding that people with schizophrenia are losing brain tissue at a more rapid rate than healthy people of comparable age (as much as 1 percent per year), and that more drugs given, the more brain tissue lost.

The power of the Internet continues to bring people together to discuss issues of common concern when it comes to mental health. The Mad in America site provides the most authentic and intelligent discussions (not always the briefest or the kindest) on mental health

The beginnings of recovery based networks, such as Mother Bear, Practice Recovery, and Family Outreach and Response that challenge the accepted notion that mental health problems are almost always biochemical in nature by showing family members what they can do encourage recovery in their relative.

The rise of the mommy memoir re a child’s mental health crisis. Here’s where my added value will come in. These mommy memoirs, most of the ones I have read, with the notable exception of The Danny Diaries, fully subscribe to the medical model of the “illness.” Mine won’t. I promise.

His defenses are down, but his immunity is up

Chris has been moping around the house for the past several weeks. He’s developed a head cold and a slight cough. Two days ago, he finally broke off his relationship with “Jenny” after hinting about doing so for weeks. HE broke it off, not her. As he related it to me, feeling the pressure of a full time relationship, no matter how good it was, was wearing on him. He said couldn’t plan any future with her if he was still in the process of figuring out how to move forward himself. “Jenny” was understandably quite upset. As soon as Chris broke up with her, he immediately began questioning his decision. It’s been a pretty emotional two days. I offered my sympathy, because I am sympathetic, but, wary that Chris usually feels guilty and at fault, I suggested to him that he made the right decision for now, and urged him not to backpedal. “Chris, you have a vocational resumé, and you also have an emotional resumé, and you’ve been getting some pretty good experience in the latter – how to navigate the turbulent waters of a relationship. If you were feeling ambivalent, under stress (whatever!) honor your decision because it respects these feelings.”

On a related note, this morning Chris and I paid a visit to the “Plant Power Guy.” When Chris first saw him seven months ago, the PPG, through his unusual testing techniques and not knowing Chris’s diagnosis, determined that Chris had NO functioning immune system. This makes sense, if you speculate, as scientific research is increasingly doing, that schizophrenia may be an auto-immune problem. What Chris has, is probably a hyper-immune system. Hyper-immunity in Chris’s case is evidenced by his never having experienced a cold, a fever, a sore throat, the flu, etc. That is, until now. He did experience psychosis, so that’s where the auto-immune system may have got him. All this is speculation on my part, of course.

The PPG did his testing, and, lo and behold, Chris’s immune function registered as normal. I suspected that at least his immune function would be improved, so it was surprising, but welcome news. There could be several explanations for the much strengthened immune system, not simply the plant power extracts that Chris has been taking. Chris suggested that it might have to do with the low gluten diet that he has adopted. He’s been on it only two weeks, and I wonder how rigorously he adheres to it, but anything’s possible. A love relationship could also be implicated, as in his defenses are down*, he is relinquishing his physical and mental defenses.

*Song from Oklahoma!  about falling in love. (My defenses are down)

What is this – national peer week?

On my walk today during lunch hour, I got to thinking about the evaluation I just completed for the Families Healing Together family recovery course. There was a question on it something about “I know where to find peer support in my community.” At first, I was going to answer “strongly disagree,” because I am not really part of my community even after living here sixteen years and I don’t know what services it has beyond the hospital program that I ran away from as fast as I could. Not being entirely fluent in the local language, I am hesitant to join support groups, etc. Actually, I take that back, I don’t want to join support groups, the language barrier is just an excuse. I really don’t need an excuse any more, because I finally got to the point where I can say without irony, I am my best support.

But, then I looked again at the question, and realized, that yes, I do know where to find peer support in my community for my son Chris. I clicked with confidence on the radio button “strongly agree.” Chris has plenty of peer support that he has relied on through the years. He has his friends in choir and musical theater, he has his holistic helpers like the sound therapist that he saw four years ago (a guy who speaks his language and knows a healing path). He has his girlfriend, “Jenny.”

Coincidentally, Sera Davidow writes on the topic of peer support over at the Mad in America site. I must admit, it took me a while to figure out the complexity of her thinking on this subject, but I realize I must have come to the same conclusions as Sera when I wrestled with the radio button choice.  “Peer does not mean ‘someone receiving services.’ It means people who exist as a part of a community of some sort and who share commonalities and relationships with one another.”

To be amongst one’s peers is to be amongst one’s equals.

Be careful what you wish for

from Harry Magnet’s Blog

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bipartisan Push for Better Mental Health Care Won’t Be Helpful

In the aftermath of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, with memories of the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Gabby Giffords shooting, and the Virginia Tech shootings still in mind, people demanded that the U.S. Congress do something. These shootings, along with many others, were perpetrated by mentally ill individuals. Liberals wanted more gun control. Conservatives wanted more armed guards and armed civilians to take down the shooters. The divided congress was unable to pass a gun control measure. But apparently liberals and conservatives were able to agree on one thing, according to a recent New York Times article: better care for the mentally ill. According to the article, “[t]he emerging legislation would, among other things, finance the construction of more community mental health centers, provide grants to train teachers to spot early signs of mental illness and make more Medicaid dollars available for mental health care.” There would also be support for children who faced trauma, and suicide prevention initiatives. Approximately 1.5 million additional people with mental illness would be treated each year.

This is a good, thing, right? What’s there to complain about more mental health treatment? There’s nothing to complain about, if one believes in the current drug-based model of care. Treatment in this context will be primarily psychoactive drugs. The community mental health center will recruit and encourage people to see a doctor and get a prescription for a psychotropic medication. Teachers will spot early signs of ADHD, depression, and bipolar disorder in children, and put the children on the road to chronic stimulant, antidepressant, and antipsychotic drug treatment. Medicaid is notorious for drugging up the children who rely on it for health care. Suicide will be prevented by prescribing antidepressant drugs. The vast majority of the 1.5 million additional treated people will be prescribed drugs.

After reading Anatomy of an Epidemic (which I review here), I stopped believing that psychotropic drugs are an effective long-term solution for most mental disorders. The evidence is just not there.  

Read the rest of Harry Magnet’s thoughtful post here He illustrates his argument using the homeless problem in Salt Lake City

Editor’s comment: I always get nervous when people want the government to DO SOMETHING! in the face of recent tragedies. It an overreaction that invariably results in bad policies, bad legislation.

Pope Francis on the need to be amongst people

Why, you might ask, does Pope Francis live in the Santa Marta (Vatican) hotel, instead of in the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace?

It wasn’t so much a question of luxury as personality, he said. “I need to live among people,” he said. “If I was living alone, isolated, it wouldn’t be good for me. A professor asked me the same question, ‘why don’t you go and live there (in the Papal apartments)’? And I replied: ‘Listen to me professor, it is for psychiatric reasons,'” he said chuckling.

Read the full story here.