Recovery: Pushing them too soon?

In case you’re getting impatient with the slow progress your relative may be demonstrating, I thought I’d share Chris’s experience taking courses. The ability to pay income tax (and, by my inference, to succeed at training courses) is almost the gold standard for recovery (in addition to getting along well within the family and the wider community) according to Doctor Abram Hoffer.

Here’s a long list of the courses Chris attempted, beginning at about age 21, a year after he was first hospitalized.

  1. Audited an art history course (managed to hang on mainly due to the heroic efforts of the professor to accommodate his behavior)
  2. Passed a political science semester course
  3. Quit another polysci course due to worsening symptoms
  4. Enrolled in a month long physics course and lived away from home – didn’t keep up with assignments and, obviously, failed. Final grade about 5%, if I recall.
  5. Failed to submit final work for a communications course
  6. Took refresher math lessons with a tutor; too distracted to concentrate
  7. Enrolled in a three-week French course – quit about day 3. Too anxious.
  8. Took an online music theory certificate course for a semester – I think he passed. It was so long ago.
  9. Resumed piano lessons – didn’t practice much. Stopped the lessons.
  10. Enrolled in a three-week computer course. Passed first module
  11. Enrolled in second three-week computer module. Failed second module
  12. Enrolled in an intensive French course – passed
  13. Enrolled in the next level of the French course – passed
  14. Enrolled in a sound engineering certificate program for one year – not quite making the grade. Quit.
  15. Enrolled in online math course – in progress
  16. Resumed taking piano lessons – as of last week

If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have encouraged Chris to become a student until he was much older and further into his recovery. Chris simply wasn’t ready until HE decided he wanted to do something more, which began around the age of 28 (course number 11 onwards). Getting there has been slow and unpredictable, but Chris has changed a lot and is finally seeing that he if wants to make something of his life, only he can do it.


Eric Maisel interviews me in Psychology Today series

Welcome to Childhood Made Crazy, an interview series that takes a critical look at the current “mental disorders of childhood” model. This series is comprised of interviews with practitioners, parents, and other children’s advocates as well as pieces that investigate fundamental questions in the mental health field. Visit the following page to learn more about the series, to see which interviews are coming, and to learn about the topics under discussion:

Rossa Forbes is a blogger with an upbeat and decidedly offbeat mom’s perspective on the journey of schizophrenia. Her memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness will be published early next year by Inspired Creations LLC.

EM: How would you suggest a parent think about being told that his or her child meets the criteria for a mental disorder and ought to go on one or more psychiatric medication for his or her diagnosed mental disorder or mental illness?

RF: Before going down that road I would insist that the doctor conduct a thorough medical history to assess whether there is an underlying medical condition, e.g. Lyme disease, brain tumor, or an autoimmune condition.

As it is only quite recently (2007) that the link between psychosis and an autoimmune disorder called anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis has been made, it is possible that researchers are already identifying other antibodies in the blood and spinal fluid with links to psychosis.

Do keep in mind that doctors know very little about how the drugs work or what causes mental illness. The word “medication” (as opposed to “drug”) implies the presence of a disease state that can be successfully treated pharmaceutically.  As schizophrenia (the mental illness with which I’m most familiar) is considered by the medical profession to be incurable, in the same way that they consider most mental illnesses incurable, this negates the idea that a medication exists that can treat it.

The drugs are actually major tranquillizers and they are generally effective at dampening psychosis –masking it, not getting rid of it. In the process, these drugs make the person sluggish and prone to weight gain and other side effects.

I know from experience, how hard it is to manage “schizophrenia” without resorting to a prescription drug. I do think it is possible, but I think most parents initially are not in any way familiar with how to do this. Acquiring this knowledge may take years of trial and error, although there are online courses that are beginning to teach these skills.

Read the rest of the interview here

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

This interview with Stephen Buhner was conducted by Matt Stevenson,  a young man who has recovered from challenges associated with multiple “severe” psychiatric diagnoses and who is building a bit of a reputation on the Mad in America site by interviewing leaders about alternative ways of conceptualizing distress, as well as about about paths to recovery outside the mainstream system.

Understanding Extreme States: An Interview with Stephen Harrod Buhner

One day on the ISPS listserv, psychologist Paris Williams shared a chapter from a book in which an herbalist and alternative healer named Stephen Harrod Buhner described his approach to working with the extreme states of mind commonly labeled as “schizophrenia” by psychiatrists. The chapter was entitled “On the Healing of Schizophrenia” and the book is Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm.

Buhner described concepts which I knew from my study of psychoanalytic approaches to these problems, such as profound fragmentation of the mind into part-selves to counter overwhelming anxiety, and the great care and lengthy time frames necessary to help severely traumatized people regain trust in the outside world. Buhner described how the dedicated healer could painstakingly be permitted access to the fragmented inner world of a terrified person and help them reintegrate their mind. Of “schizophrenia,” Buhner said, “The cultural paradigm or view of the condition is itself dysfunctional, to the extent that the paradigm is crazy.” (Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, pg. 503)

Finding myself intrigued by this man who’d never trained in psychiatry or psychology but who nevertheless worked effectively with people in severe distress using self-developed theories, I tracked Buhner down. I asked him to speak to me about these issues, and here is what resulted:

Read the interview in its entirety  here  Be inspired!