If anybody came to me today asking my advice about how best to treat schizophrenia, who am I to tell them what to do? Anything I say would imply that I have all the answers, and I don’t. From time to time I look at other people’s blogs on schizophrenia, blogs written by people who do not embrace the same “try anything remotedly feasible” approach that I do. I like to look at what the competition is doing.
The competition is rarely upbeat. The competition seems sad, very sad, about their relatives. They are sad about themselves. They have tried everything, done everything, and nothing has worked it seems. Their relatives are still hospitalized/group homed/dead/take your pick.
No two family situations are alike, but I do sense a pattern. The downbeat bloggers (DBs) tend to medicalize their relative’s mental health condition. This means they fully respect the label and, while not happy with the efficacy of the drugs, they go along with the idea that the drugs are essential to their family member’s “functioning,” as they term it. Once they have bought into the medical model, their interests begin to extend outward to urge the community to accomodate their relative and others. It all sounds reasonable, doesn’t it, to want to try to improve society when you have the requisite insight and experience.
It seems to me, however, that the DBs don’t want to change themselves, they want to change their relative, and failing that, to change others.
If these bloggers were more cheerful about their own family member, I could be persuaded that they were on to something that might work for others.
In order to arrive at this blast of insight, I took the advice of former patients, who are almost unanimous in their condemnation of the medical model. I strongly suspect that the reason the downbeat bloggers don’t ask former patients for their advice is because they do not believe mental illness is curable. There are no former patients in their mindset. There are only the misdiagnosed former patients. DBs are doomed from the beginning if this is how they feel.
Obviously, there is a place for professional help. However, the goal is to distance yourself and your relative as soon as possible from becoming overly dependent on professionals’ advice and their hold on your life. The idea is to empower yourself by believing in the innate human ability to rise above adversity. People actually can cheer themselves up by empowering themselves. Nobody is born mentally ill. People become “mentally ill.” If a relative is troubled, this is an opportunity to examine your own life, to see how your thoughts become actions that have an impact on others. I often think that the person with the mental illness is the person who has managed to escape from somebody else’s power over their life. They have checkmated the person. They have put them in their place. It’s really odd and unproductive (albeit creative), but it works.