In August I answered an invitation from Virgil Stucker and Associates to submit a post to their site in anticipation of September being the month dedicated to mental health advocacy and suicide prevention themes. The request was open-ended: I could write on basically whatever I wanted to write about, and if I had any particular treatments that I thought others would want to hear about, they wanted to hear about those, too. I thought that was a pretty decent invitation because it didn’t filter what was considered “acceptable” treatment from “unacceptable treatment.” Anyone reading my blog this past year knows that I’ve been pushing Focused Listening, so if you don’t want to hear any more about this treatment, you can stop here. On the other hand, if you are curious to read different perspectives on mental health recovery from parents and professionals, you can find them on the Virgil Stucker and Associates blog.
Virgil Stucker has over thirty years of leadership experience in the recovery movement (encompassing therapeutic communities and directorships of not-for-profit organizations). Virgil Stucker and Associates empowers mental health decision making for families and individuals facing issues due to serious mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar and personality disorders, schizophrenia and schizo-affective disorder as well as substance abuse.
Rossa Forbes reflects on where an open mind led her when she sought help for her son, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia.
I wish recovery were simple and straightforward for people like my son Chris who have experienced a serious mental illness. Often parents speak about recovery in terms of getting their old son or daughter back, meaning I suppose that their child’s personality, skills, and accomplishments before the onset of psychosis were pretty darn close to being as good as these things can be.
Abilify (aripiprazole) is still considered an antipsychotic in Europe (or in Switzerland, at least) but by changing continents with my recent move to the US, I find that Abilify has grown in stature, no longer a drug used by a small percentage of the population, but more like a drug superhero that watches over a lot more people with its magic protective powers. The drug superhero is paid handsomely for services rendered.
We all know that several years ago pharmaceutical companies began to market Abilify as an add-on treatment for major depressive disorder, downplaying its original role as an antipsychotic. Then, $uddenly, our $uperhero $aw a chance to help more people, $o pre$to chango, our $uperhero is now primarily an antidepre$$ant.
I don’t normally read the folded up drug information that comes inside the box. This time the Aripiprazole Oral Solution information was printed on two front and back pages of letter size paper stapled to the receipt, so it was hard not to be curious about the contents.
Let’s assume that a person who is being treated for depression, but is otherwise quite functional in his or her day to day life, decides to actually read the Aripiprazolerole literature, like I just did. She will see that the first page through to the very top of page two Continue reading “What a difference a change of continent makes”
In my last post I supplied some ancedotal evidence about the amazing grapefruit’s ability to lower blood pressure. Coincidentally, we, meaning Chris and me, have just moved to Florida. Let the grapefruit fest begin! (Except for me with my low blood pressure.) As further proof that grapefruit lowers blood pressure, I’d like to show you what I’ve since learned, by introducing Exhibit A, my husband, and Exhibit B, the country of Japan.
Exhibit A: Ian, my husband, is worried about staying in Switzerland without me while Chris and I take up residence in Florida. Ian won’t be joining me until he retires from his job early next year. The usual stresses (paperwork and logistics) of a transatlantic move have also weighed heavily on him. Ian will continue to cohabit our flat in Switzerland with Taylor, our youngest son.
Not unsurprisingly, my husband’s blood pressure over the past year has been on the high side. Just before we crossed the pond in early August, it became worrisomely high. So, I convinced him to have a glass of grapefruit juice every day. After doing so, he said he felt better but of course, wanted to have it checked by a doctor, so we got him in for an appointment the week after we arrived here. He was greatly relieved to learn that his diastolic blood pressure had dropped a whopping 19 points (!) since it was last measured in July. There was no need to discuss medication, according to the doctor.
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.
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.)
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.
In my memoir, The Scenic Route: A Way through Madness (coming out in the New Year), I devote part of a chapter to The Alexander Technique. In researching the technique, I came across the name of Kitty Merrick Wielopolska who was a student of the technique in the 1930s. I haven’t read her book, but it seems that it would be well worth adding to a collection of schizophrenia memoirs that have credited healing to a non-mainstream approach. In this interview, I also learned for the first time about a relatively recent psychotherapy (phenomenological psychotherapy) which my experience tells me shows great promise in breaking the habitual patterns of thought that Alexander termed a “misuse of the self.”
Never Ask Why
THE LIFE ADVENTURE OF KITTY WIELOPOLSKA (1900-1988)
Her experience with the Alexander Work, schizophrenia and the psychic state
(NOVIS is a small publishing company specializing in publishing literature on the Alexander Technique)
The following is from Joe Armstrong’s interview with Kitty that was published in 2001 several years after her death
From the moment I met Kitty (Catharine Merrick) Wielopolska in 1966 – over ten years before we began recording these stirring conversations about her struggle with schizophrenia 1 – I felt she was an extraordinary person. But after hearing for the first time in these talks about her many breakdowns and the inspiration for getting herself well that she found in the Alexander Work, 2 I realized that there were many more reasons why she was so very remarkable than I could ever have imagined.
While these conversations don’t claim that Kitty used the Alexander Work itself as a direct means to her recovery, 3 I believe they do show that her intensive experience of it had a substantial indirect influence on her ability to find her way to health. This is because the Alexander Work is based on the conception that it is impossible to separate “mental” and “physical” processes in any form of human activity, and it would therefore require us to regard a condition like schizophrenia not just as a “mental disorder.” It would also require us to take into account the “use” of the whole person when diagnosing the disorder and searching for ways to treat it. “Use,” in Alexander terminology, refers to our combined manners of responding, moving, and thinking as they are manifested in our overall behavior at any given moment, whether the behavior is governed subconsciously by our habits or is consciously guided by our chosen intention.
With that in mind, it’s very interesting to read that at least one branch of psychiatry has recently been taking a psychophysical approach to schizophrenia and is focusing on the same area of concern that F.M. Alexander found to be central in re-educating the use of ourselves as a whole. Phenomenological psychiatrists such as Shaun Gallagher are considering the possibility that the “voices” heard by people diagnosed as schizophrenic stem essentially from a breakdown in what he calls our “protentional function.” This governs our ability to “anticipate experience which is just about to happen,” in contrast to our “retentional function,” which governs how we “retain previous phases of consciousness and their intentional content.” Gallagher also says that our sense of “agency” in both motor action and cognition “depends upon Continue reading “A psychophysical approach to treating schizophrenia”
A specialized weight loss diet preferred by some bodybuilders may be effective in treating schizophrenia, according to research published in Schizophrenia Research
Although further studies using other animal models are needed to confirm these findings, the authors wrote that “as [a ketogenic diet] has been safely and effectively administered to humans in different pathological conditions, [this treatment] has the potential to be swiftly translated into a novel, safe and effective management of schizophrenia.”
We report the unexpected resolution of longstanding schizophrenic symptoms after starting a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet. After a review of the literature, possible reasons for this include the metabolic consequences from the elimination of gluten from the diet, and the modulation of the disease of schizophrenia at the cellular level.
C.D. is a 70 year-old Caucasian female with a diagnosis of schizophrenia since the age of seventeen. Her diagnosis was based on paranoia, disorganized speech, and hallucinations. She reported both auditory and visual hallucinations, including seeing skeletons and hearing voices that told her to hurt herself. According to her history, she has had these hallucinations on almost a daily basis since the age of seven. C.D. has also been hospitalized at least five times over the last six years for suicide attempts and increased psychotic symptoms. She has attempted to overdose on medications, cut herself, and ingest cleaning agents. Her most recenthospitalization was five months prior to initiating the low-carbohydrate diet. She has discussed both her suicidal ideations and her hallucinations with her psychiatrist who has tried to optimize her medication regimen in an effort to improve her symptoms, but this has been largely unsuccessful. Her prior anti-psychotic and mood-stabilizing medication regimen has included lithium 900 mg qhs, olanzapine (dose unknown), ziprasidone 40 mg bid, aripiprazole 30 mg qhs, lamotrigine 100 mg bid, and quetiapine 900 mg qhs. She is currently managed on risperidone 4 mg qhs.
In August, I came to the end of my ten year writing marathon to document the healing journey that my son and I embarked upon. The Scenic Route will be published in January. Why did it take so long, you may well ask? For one, I’m not a writer. I became a writer over the course of the journey, partly as a way of holding on to my own sanity by having a Purpose in life. Finding a purpose in life is one of the many side roads that Chris and I ventured off on, me doing the driving and he mainly along for the ride, at least for a good part of these years. I felt sure that if he found a Purpose in life, too, perhaps he would eventually take over the steering wheel.
“Monsieur Auclair,” Saint-Vallier spoke up sharply. “I feel that you evade me. Do you yourself believe that the Count will recover?”
“I must ask your indulgence, Monseigneur, but in a case like the Count’s, a medical advisor should not permit himself to believe in anything but recovery. His doubts would affect the patient. If the Count still has the vital force I have always found in him, he will recover.”
From Shadows On The Rock, a superb historical novel published in 1931 by Willa Cather.
“….this novel of seventeenth-century Quebec is a luminous evocation of North American origins, and of the men and women who struggled to adapt to that new world even as they clung to the artifacts and manners of the one they left behind.” (Vintage Classics, 1995)