I said goodbye to Jennifer a couple of weeks ago after making two quick trips out to see her in the space of a few days. On the first trip, I brought her a pretty floral dress picked up on sale that I thought would look good on her. She was delighted and said she would wear it to church that weekend.
To put an optimistic spin on whether she will do the Focused Listening program that I have been encouraging her to do, the answer is she has NOT been doing it, and my hope is that she will turn to it in future when she’s in a state of mind that will allow her to take more control of her health. To underscore this message, I typed out a letter for her that I slipped into the dress bag. I said that the only real gift I could give her was the music program.
On my final visit, I brought along a mutual friend who is keen on checking in with Jennifer from time to time. I’ve instructed my friend in the basics of the music therapy and she’s in charge of some money donated by our Club’s Board members that is earmarked for further equipment if there is a need.
Jennifer asked us if on our way home, we could to take her back to her old flat (15 kilometres away!) so she could get in her daily 3-hour walk back to the hospital. It was a blazing hot day. She doesn’t use sunblock. I noticed that Jennifer was back to wearing flimsy slippers, not the sturdy walking shoes she’d gladly accepted from me on a previous visit for exactly that purpose. I wince when I think of her walking all that way in the heat in those shoes. I’ve dealt with the same lack of follow through or understanding of protecting one’s health and comfort with Chris.
The difference between her and Chris? Chris lives with his parents and I’m constantly in his face about wearing sunblock, wearing the right shoes, and doing some useful exercises to improve his mental health. Jennifer’s care has been entrusted to the state. I’ll never figure out why so many parents spend so much of their energy trying to get the state to parent their grown children. I can well understand the impulse, but when you see that the state is an imperfect parent, and always will be, wouldn’t it make more sense to hunker down with your relative for far longer than you would care to parent, and focus, at the very least, on protecting one’s physical health?
Fare thee well, Jennifer. I hope that in time you will figure out what you need to get to a better place.
Joseph Polimeni, MD, is a Canadian psychiatrist and the author of the 2012 book Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion. The central premise of the book is that schizophrenia patients are the modern manifestation of tribal shamans, people who were vital to the success of early human cultures. “Shamans Among Us is the most detailed and comprehensive evolutionary theory yet assembled to explain a specific psychiatric diagnosis.”
I learned about Dr Polimeni’s work when I read Dick Russell’s memoir My Mysterious Son: A Life-Changing Passage Between Schizophrenia and Shamanism. I highly recommend both books.
The idea that people with schizophrenia are the modern manifestation of shamans is gaining a certain currency, to whit Phil Borges 2015 documentary, Crazywise. Borges spent many year documenting and filming tribal cultures and began to question why it is that ancient and tribal cultures reserve an honored place for the same kinds of persons who in Western cultures are labelled schizophrenic or bipolar, promptly medicated, and then largely degraded and ignored.
Dr. Polimeni’s belief that “the inborn cognitive factors or personality style that would have predisposed certain people to become shamans is the same psychological mindset that underlies schizophrenia ” seems entirely reasonable to me. As because it also seems reasonable to me that any mother would know her child’s inborn cognitive factors and personality style that might align themselves with shamanistic traits, I sent him a copy of my book. In it I flag several traits I noticed about my son that might work well with this theory.
RF: Dr. Polimeni, as it happens you didn’t read my book. I thought a psychiatrist with your research interests would be curious enough to do so. When I contacted you after I didn’t hear back from you, I let you in on a not very well kept secret, that male readers in general don’t want to read memoirs written by women. We were both somewhat amused, but I’m guessing you still haven’t read my book? Is that correct? Continue reading “Interview with Joseph Polimeni, MD on shamanism and schizophrenia”
I haven’t updated readers a very long time on what Chris is doing. The main reason is that he’s thirty-four, and well, it just gets awkward. He’s done enough therapy and the ball’s been in his court for quite a while now. I’ve written my book, we can all take a breather.
Chris will be moving to Florida with me in August where he plans to enroll in a program that will help him find a job and upgrade his skills. My husband will join us when he retires early next year. Chris has a new girlfriend who he met in April. Not great timing given the move, but these kinds of things have their own timing.
He’s becoming more assertive and motivated by doing the Focused Listening music therapy every day and having a girlfriend who’s pushing him to achieve more. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern right now waiting to see if the promise of the music therapy will come to pass. (I’ve been told that I won’t recognize the old Chris once his ear muscle is no longer weakened by the medication. (Chris may want to begin tapering his medication after he transitions to his new environment.)