Today’s Obituary

Max Beauvoir, Who Gave Up Science to Be High Priest of Voodoo, Dies at 79

Max Beauvoir, a former City College of New York chemistry major who gave up hard science for magic spirits, spell-casting and ritual animal sacrifices vital to becoming Haiti’s high priest of voodoo, died on Saturday in Port-au-Prince, the capital. He was 79.

His death was announced by the president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, who described it as a “great loss for the country.”

Mr. Beauvoir was in his mid-30s and planning a career in biochemistry when his grandfather, on his deathbed,


Norman Doidge, plasticity, and eyesight

Perhaps you’ve heard about Dr. Norman Doidge’s latest book, The Brain’s Way of Healing. Dr. Doidge (pronounced ‘Dodge,’ I believe) is a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who has turned himself into Dr. Oliver Sacks, meaning he likes to write about interesting patient stories from the frontiers of neurology. His first book was titled The Brain That Changes Itself.

The concept of brain plasticity (the discovery that the brain is able to form new neural pathways), Doidge informs us, has been been around since the 1970s but only began to enter the public consciousness in 2006. That appears about right to me, as in early 2004 Chris’s psychiatrist told my husband and me that his brain was sort of like rapidly solidifying concrete that needed to be ‘protected’ from further rigidity and loss of neurons through the administration of neuroleptic drugs. That theory had already bit the dust but somehow the psychiatrists at the Centre for Addition and Mental Health didn’t receive this message. I won’t go into how pessimistic the concrete brain concept was in comparison to plastic brain concept, but it still grates how much damage was done by their telling us that Chris’s brain was damaged. That and the schizophrenia diagnosis. Horrible. I’m still not convinced “schizophrenia” is a brain problem, in any case.

I’m not sure what Dr. Doidge’s position is on schizophrenia. It’s interesting that a person who is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst by training doesn’t address schizophrenia as a topic in either of his two books. That’s like a priest who writes about religion failing to mention God. Is it because he doesn’t think schizophrenia is a problem with one’s brain and he is aware that lots of people recover from this condition so there is nothing neuronally (is this a word?) intriguing about it? If so, he would do us all a favor by saying so! I’m in the process of putting my question to him in a letter. (Of course, it’s also possible he prefers writing about neuroplasticity rather than dealing with patients. He wouldn’t be the first doctor to reposition himself as far away from his patients as possible,)

One of the chapters in the book is on how a blind man got his sight back relying on the Feldenkrais method. I’ve made a few efforts in the past to get my sight back to 20/20, but didn’t see a lot of progress so I stopped doing the exercies. I’ve bathed my eyes by staring at the sun with my eyes closed, I’ve rotated them clockwise and counterclockwise, but the Feldenkrais contribution I read about added something new that I think is key. Doing this exercise for a couple of days noticeably strengthened my peripheral vision. Having better peripheral vision is a huge confidence booster. I even did the grocery shopping without once putting on my specs!

Residual anxiety

Post recovery, is all that is left anxiety? Based on observations of a sample of two (Chris being one), I see that he’s taken on a purposeful life, but he occasionally gets sideswiped by anxiety. I’d never known him to be anxious before he began to develop symptoms that earned him a schizophrenia diagnosis when he was twenty.  I wonder if he’s always had an underlying anxiety or if he became anxious for the first time in his late adolescence. Had he been treated for anxiety rather than “schizophrenia” it seems to me that his recovery would have been a lot quicker than it actually was.

Normal’s rather boring

Now that Chris is up to speed and getting on with his life, I’ve got a confession to make. My life is nowhere near as interesting as during the ten years of struggle to find a way through madness. Several years have passed since my last heart in my throat incident. I sleep well at night. Chris is going about the usual things that normally someone in his early twenties would be doing, except that he’s in his early thirties. Girlfriend, technical training course, friends. Pardon me while I yawn. No more days for me spent reading shrink lit or finding novel approaches to healing. In a funny way, I miss those days.

That’s all to say, I think that it’s really important to become interested in whatever curve ball life tosses you. Adversity can be a memorable friend.

Can Madness Save the World?


Gene Keys: Trust everything

Thanks to Monica Cassani, at Beyond Meds, for alerting me to Gene Keys: Unlocking the Higher Purpose Hidden in Your DNA, by Richard Rudd. This book was published in 2013.

I am reminded that much of my thinking about recovery from schizophrenia centers on the concept of cellular cleansing and balance. How do you achieve this? When you listen to the short video, keep in mind that it is about you, just as much as it is about “them.” We often see our relatives as a “them,” when in reality they are “us.”

receive and trust whatever comes your way …trust everything….you begin to allow life to resonate inside you at a high frequency…. every experience is perfect….the more we drop our agendas …our trying …then the magic occurs to be yourself with them, allow them to see your weakness as well as your strength…people don’t need help, they need love.

The more we surrender to every moment as perfect, the more oriented we become. Let that truth penetrate deeply into the cells of your body.

Trust the shadow. It contains a gift. Fear is safe.


Keep those book title comments coming – please!

Thanks to everybody so far who has have taken the time to comment. You’ve given me not only titles but points to ponder.

In no particular order:

“The word holistic is off putting to some. I would do something different. I will think about it.”

“WELLER THAN WELL: A Son’s Victory Over Schizophrenia Diagnosis”

“The word schizophrenia in the title has helped my book to reach the people who have an interest in mental health, which is the group Rossa wants to reach. However, I have been reliably informed that it puts other people, who might normally read memoirs, off reading mine. I have tried the book with a different title though and it hardly sold at all – people just didn’t need know it was out there. Hopefully, Rossa’s publishers will help with marketing the book so that might be different for her. Personally, I might drop the word ‘Holistic’ from the title, only because it makes it a bit long and more complicated-sounding.”

“Holistic Recovery from the Divided Self (which is what R. D. Laing called Schizophrenia)”

“I like your working title, Rossa, because it so descriptive of what the book is about. I would have snapped this up for sure had I seen it 10 years ago and was desperate for hope. I think it’s good to have the word “schizophrenia” in the title, even though I don’t believe in the validity of the diagnosis. People who are just being thrown by that diagnosis are not going to relate to phrases like “extreme distress.” On the other hand, maybe there’s a catchy way to distill what the book’s about. Like Susanna Cahalan’s book title. She had anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, but it would be a mistake to put THAT in a book title. ha ha. Her book is titled:
Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness. That title really grabs you, it’s really descriptive of what the story is about, and it WAS a NY Times bestseller.”

“I think both the words Holistic and the word Schizophrenia might limit your market in terms of sales. My understanding of your story is that it is a quest for knowledge, wisdom, shared humanity, connection and love. It’s about freedom, it’s about society, it’s about systems, and it’s ultimately about life and who and how we want to be in the world. While the backdrop is holistic recovery from schizophrenia, the themes are much bigger, and have more mass appeal. Somehow, I think a title that speaks more to the lessons learned rather then the “backdrop” might be best, though off hand I can’t come up with anything…”

“I think the identifiers of words like schizophrenia or holistic work better as the subtitle, with a more broad title that speaks to the lessons learned.”

Feedback appreciated on my book title

We’re getting down to the fine strokes, and it’s now time for me to consider the title of my memoir. I thought I would throw this out to the larger community for feedback.

Many of you probably already know something of Chris’s and my story. Consider putting yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t familiar with this blog. If you were in a bookstore seeking hope for yourself and for your seventeen year old son or twenty five year old daughter, would you eagerly pick up a book with the title Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia: A Mother and Son Journey or would something make you hesitate? If so, what would that be?

We could also scratch the bookstore and think only in terms of the virtual bookstore. If you were looking for help, what terms would you put into your search engine?

What does this book title mean to you?

Your feedback is welcome. Feel free to suggest new ideas. I’m here to learn, not defend.

The end of the road and it’s now time to spread our wings

Drum roll, please. I’m making it official. I can finally say that after 14 years, my son Chris is well. Weller than well, as Dr. Karl Menninger would say. And I’m no longer afraid that I’m tempting fate by saying this. I’m not worried about a relapse, but if it happens, at least I’ll have a better grip on what to do about it. I had to learn these skills on my own, no help from mainstream medicine or mainstream thinking. In the immortal words of Andrew Solomon, the creator of “If you want to do something right, you have to do it yourself.This especially applies to your health care.”

To give you a brief update, in March Chris enrolled in a three year vocational course in an area in line with his interests. He loves it. He’s socially way, way, way, more outgoing than I’ve ever seen him. He recently appeared on stage yet again as a member of the chorus in the musical Cabaret. He takes acting lessons at night. He continues to sing in choirs. He’s got a girl friend. He does lots of volunteer work. There are some residual problems that he’s working to resolve. He’s on half the recommended dose of Abilify, which he plans to eventually get rid of completely, if possible. A depressing side effect from the drugs is the huge amount of weight gained. After a couple of false starts involving a diet doctor and an acupuncturist, he’s now on the HCG diet, the only diet I know that enables weight loss from metabolically (medication) induced weight gain. The results in only three weeks are encouraging.

Several parents have contacted me recently wanting to know how I’ve done what’s supposed to be the impossible. My book gives the best flavor of what Chris’s recovery looked like and goes into great detail about my experiments, but it’s only just arrived at the publisher’s and it will probably not be out until early next year. So, to answer people’s questions about how to do it (and I emphasize that there are many paths to take, this is only one), here’s a very brief summary of how you can help your own relative based on how I believe Chris got to where he is today:

My son has recovered/renewed/reconstructed (choose one) largely because his family, to use a golfing term, kept our eye on the ball. We made his recovery our goal. We let no one tell us otherwise, in a world where there are always lots of people prepared to tell us otherwise. We did not get sucked into negative energy activities that ultimately lead nowhere. By this I mean fretting too much about saving the masses when it is the individual (your relative) who counts most and where you will see the quickest results —if you stay focused. You can be active in mental health organizations and/or lobby your government later —once you get your own relative up and running.

Our cluing in didn’t happen overnight. The best thing I learned early on from people who know something about recovery (people with lived experience) was to remove ourselves from framing Chris’s problems within the medical model. I’m convinced Chris could have recovered sooner had we not gotten side-tracked by institutional psychiatry perpetrating the false belief that there was something gone horribly wrong with his brain and only they knew the magic formula to set things right again. I am convinced that had we learned or been taught how to properly communicate with Chris when he was struggling, recovery would have been much quicker and less fraught with danger. I had to largely figure out these communication skills on my own. It is outrageous that so much time was wasted because psychiatry hasn’t got a clue how to handle “schizophrenia.” It’s families that are “handling” schizophrenia and we’ve been doing this without knowing what to do or how to do it well.

I sincerely hope that you can replicate in your own lives the lessons that Chris and his family have learned in our journey.

For further information about how to establish good communication with your relative, please check out Krista McKinnon’s online course.

Ron Unger LCSW has an excellent slideshow: Understanding Psychosis as an Attempt to Solve Problems.