Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia

Anecdotal evidence

Like many people, as I’ve aged, I’ve learned to trust my intuition when summoning the body’s ability to heal using non-drug interventions whenever possible.

Three examples come to mind:

Example #1. The amazing grapefruit. A few years ago for a while on and off I could hardly get out of the bed in the morning. I simply didn’t have enough energy to propel myself and had to sit down or lie down at every opportunity. My naturally low blood pressure had never bothered me before. What was  I  now doing differently that might contribute to the problem? It had to be something.  The answer: Stop the recent daily breakfast routine of a glass of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Switch my daily baby aspirin from nighttime to daytime. Baby aspirin taken at night lowers blood pressure. I certainly didn’t need to aggravate my low blood pressure.

So, I’m guessing that anyone with high blood pressure should do the opposite: Drink grapefruit juice daily and if taking a baby aspirin to avoid strokes and heart attack, take it at night.

The usual disclaimer applies: I am not a physician. Check with your doctor.

Other examples of unexpected and rather miraculous healings to follow in future posts.

 

Fare thee well

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.

 

 

 

 

Interview with Joseph Polimeni, MD on shamanism and schizophrenia

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”

Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Schizophrenia

Enjoy this 2013 presentation by Joseph Polimeni, MD on his theory about why schizophrenia (and bipolar disorder) persists over time.

In my next post, I’ll interview Dr Polimeni about his book,
Shamans Among Us: Schizophrenia, Shamanism and the Evolutionary Origins of Religion.

Why I don’t write about Chris much anymore

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.)

A “bad” situation isn’t always bad

Jennifer’s situation isn’t all bad, but I can’t tell her this if I’m hoping to gain her trust. She wants me on HER side and I’m afraid she’ll shut down if I tell her what I would do if I were her. Now that I think of it, I can be a little more forthright when she complains about the Haldol. I can agree with her that it’s an outdated med and the trembling it produces is unacceptable, but I can also slip in that the newer antipsychotics are terrible for weight gain, and I’ve heard they are harder to withdraw from. I don’t want to “tell” her she’s wrong about the Haldol, because she isn’t, but, at the same time, I want to encourage her to adopt a more “radical acceptance” attitude. She’s been involuntarily committed. Her attitude in future may keep her well and out of the hospital.

Maybe if she also changed her attitude about her state appointed guardian, she’d might get some doors to open. According to Jennifer, he’s an idiot out to get her, nothing he says can be trusted. Why should she play ball with him? etc. It’s obvious to ME that he holds the get out of jail free card, but this doesn’t seem obvious to Jennifer in her present state. I believe, and I may be wrong, that, in the past, by rebuffing all attempts by the state to encourage her to take sheltered training, the guardian decided she was a lost cause. She is no longer entitled to training. That’s my understanding of the situation, anyway.

My years of experience dealing with my own son tell me that Focused Listening may be her best chance to get off the drugs for good and become rational enough to hold down a job. I’m not sure how much, if at all, she’s doing what I feel she should be doing to achieve what she tells me she wants to achieve. (I’ll accept that the last sentence is a bit of a mind bender.) The only strategy I can think of to get her to do the Focused Listening is to be on her side. It’s a complicated dance we’re doing.

Radical acceptance – who practices it?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the term “radical acceptance” after spending a couple of hours last week walking in the woods with “Jennifer” (see previous posts). “Radical acceptance” is a term coined by psychologist Marsha Linehan and it means “not resisting what you cannot or choose not to change” or words to that effect. I think of it as “playing the ball where it lies.”

I believe that radical acceptance isn’t just recommended as a coping mechanism for self acceptance, it also involves how outsiders interact with the individual. Outsiders are the family, the mental health system, the courts, etc. In a family situation, an example of radical acceptance could be accepting the fact that your relative doesn’t want to take medication or doesn’t want to do anything that you think they should do “for their own good”. And, you may be right about what they should or could do but wrong about how to change the situation for the better. Another way of thinking about radical acceptance could be “whose side are you on?” But, I haven’t cleared my understanding of the term with psychologists. I’m winging this one.

Radical acceptance is a tension pitting the individual against the care providers and it can feel quite “unfair” that one side has to do the acceptance while the other side appears seemingly oblivious to the need to constructively help herself.

Jennifer’s hospitalization happened after she took herself off the medication, Haldol, which she told me she hated because it made her hands tremble. (She did it responsibly by tapering slowly under professional guidance. In my book she gets points for that but I doubt that the mental health system sees this as a positive.)

Jennifer’s hands are once more shaking because the hospital put her right back on the medication that she doesn’t want to take. This seems totally contrary to the idea of achieving best outcomes by listening to the patient and taking her position into account. What are they thinking?

Her state appointed guardian wants to move her to a residence where her med intake can be supervised. It’s located in a small village half way up a mountain. Getting to her normal haunts will be that much more time consuming and expensive. Jennifer doesn’t want to move to the new place. She asked me to intervene. Without telling her I have done so, I wrote to the guardian asking if it is at all possible that they can find living accommodations closer to “civilization” (although I was more diplomatic in my choice of words). He is aware and sympathetic to the fact that she is isolated. At least, that’s what he told me. The public health system doesn’t have much leeway for these kinds of requests, but I’m nonetheless hoping he’ll prove me wrong.

To sum it up, Jennifer doesn’t want to shake, doesn’t want to take medication, and she doesn’t want to be isolated. Instead, she is being forced to shake on the same old med and she’s being moved to a remote location where she will have little social interaction. Many people say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different outcome.

Who here is playing the ball where it lies?

Booked for safekeeping

Booked for safekeeping is a 1959 Public Health Service instructional film intending to show policemen proper procedures for handling mentally disturbed citizens. It was front page of WikiMediaCommons* on May 31st. Well worth watching, for many reasons, but one that stands out for me is how important it is for the disturbed person to feel that someone is on their side and for the person who professes to be on their side, to carry through on his promises. This attitude applies in how family members establish good communication with their relative.

*Wikimedia Commons has more than 38 million media files, one of the largest free media collections in the world.

How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman

In her book Listening for the Light and in her extensive writings on the importance of music therapy for the ear and brain, Laurna Tallman has not only focused her considerable insights on the healing of dyslexic syndrome, schizophrenia, bipolarity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and substance abuse, but also on the socio-economic context where many find themselves unable to access the therapies that may truly help them. What little I had absorbed about the Tomatis therapy (the starting point of her work), even after undergoing the therapy myself and devoting a chapter of my own book to it, was unclear and confusing. I had no idea why Tomatis therapy might be key in treating my son’s schizophrenia. Laurna’s book changed that. The Tallman Paradigm is a theoretical, neurological framework for behavior that builds on and extends the work of Alfred A. Tomatis, with an important contribution from Vilayanur S. Ramachandran.

Simply put, the Tallman Paradigm maintains that altering the right ear with music has a global effect on brain function by making the left-brain dominate in cerebral integrative processes. The stapedius muscle in the right middle ear controls the amount of sound energy that reaches the left brain. If that muscle is weak or damaged, the left-brain cannot maintain its dominance over the right-brain. In people with a very weak ear muscle, the hemispheres trade “dominance” every two minutes. That condition of non-dominance, she asserts, characterizes schizophrenia, autism, and the state of normal sleep. The illnesses can be healed by using high frequency music, which Tomatis appreciated for its power, and headphones modified by blocking the left earpiece to force right-ear listening. A very important added bonus for anyone wanting to do the Tallman therapy is that anyone can do the therapy. You don’t need to travel to an expensive Tomatis center to benefit. People of any income level, no matter where they live, can heal themselves cheaply. The only equipment needed is ordinary headphones, a few CDs of Mozart violin concertos or other classical violin music, and a CD player such as a walkman or a computer. Laurna‘s website is another instance of Internet distance learning that people can apply in their own homes. She has several publications for people wanting to dig deeper into her discoveries.

Interview with Laurna Tallman, author of Listening for the Light

RF: I devote one of the chapters of my book, The Scenic Route, to the Tomatis Method therapy, which my son first underwent for a total of 60 hours in 2009. In 2009, the therapy produced interesting small changes in Chris. Not being particularly enlightened as to why he should continue the therapy once he had completed the 60 hours, I thought once was enough. What I took away from my meetings with the director of the program was that Chris would just “blossom” in some undefined way over time. When I finished my book in the late summer of 2017, Chris and I had some free time to revisit some of the therapies that (a) were covered by our insurance and (b) had a somewhat documented body of knowledge behind them, which is the case for Tomatis therapy. Both of us did the therapy this time, for 40 hours each. I felt energetically rejuvenated, but came away none-the-wiser about what this therapy can do for people or why Chris and I should stick with it.

Laurna, I suspect that my impressions of Tomatis therapy are shared by others. Tomatis therapy is expensive. Tomatis clinics usually are restricted to large population centers and the treatment is not covered by a lot of insurance plans. Can you expand on any other of its drawbacks when it comes to schizophrenia and the other conditions and why you advocate using Focused Listening?

LT: Yes, I can. But, first, I want to express my appreciation for the genius of Tomatis that led to important discoveries and my gratitude for the kindness of practitioners who use that method to reach out to people in need. Four members of our family experienced some version of the Tomatis Method and each made astonishing recoveries from dyslexic syndrome or from chronic fatigue syndrome. Those healings were not permanent, however, which set me on my own road to discovery. I would learn that treatments affecting the ear cannot be guaranteed to be permanent because the ear is easily harmed, for example, by loud noise, by infections, and by other means. Continue reading “How a little known listening program heals a range of “incurable” ills: Interview with Laurna Tallman”

Convincing people who are convinced they don’t need help

I popped in to see Jennifer last week to see how she was doing and to find out if she had started the Focused Listening program (which she hadn’t). She seemed in need an outing so we got in my car and went for a coffee at a hotel by the lake. No sign-out procedures at the hospital. I doubt anyone knew she was gone. This made me think that the staff believed that the headphones that I gave her a few weeks ago posed no suicide threat. Because of the hospital’s liberal policy of allowing patients to wander off-site I figure she has ample opportunity to kill herself and so I don’t need to go wireless for her.

Conversationally, she’s much improved. I disregarded the occasional forays into paranoia. (The bloodbath is still raging in town.) She said she’d like to work again, and that was my chance to reinforce the music therapy by saying that that my son hoped to work, too, and Focused Listening might help get them both there. Any chance I got, I put in a plug for listening to the music. She went to the washroom. I donned my headphones in her absence so when she came back she could see how much I was enjoying them.

We got back in the car and she suddenly suggested that I drive her to her old apartment so she could pick up some summer clothes and shoes. People (she didn’t say who) have been cutting holes in her shoes. She showed me where there was a hole.

When I got home after dropping her back at the hospital I wrote her a letter and posted it later that day. I wrote that the next time I came out, I’d like some reassurance that she had been doing the therapy. I would bring my headset and we could go for a walk.