I have a small comfort zone, therefore I must be normal

If normal is becoming a shrunken pool due to overdiagnosis of mental illness, and alarming clinical psychologists like Til Wykes, I actually find this shock and horror rather amusing (especially coming from a psychologist.) Let me explain.

When you are on the outside looking in, in terms of what “normal” people call schizophrenia, you assume the person is mentally ill, because, really, the behavior can be off the charts weird. So “normal” people run away. They are so horror struck that they assume whatever it they are seeing and hearing can’t possibly be normal and they ask that someone (a psychiatrist) put a stop to this behavior immediately. This almost always involves using medications to solve the problem. However, medications don’t actually fix the problem, they just sedate the person and more often than not, those pesky abnormal thoughts are just waiting around to break through once more.

Just because you or I think we would never react so strangely to a problem, doesn’t mean that doing so is abnormal. Psychosis is a well-trod path. Venture out beyond your comfort zone of normal and you will begin to understand.

I wish to thank Beyond Meds for bringing this wonderful quote to my attention.

Anyone who wants to know the human psyche will learn next to nothing from experimental psychology. He would be better advised to abandon exact science, put away his scholar’s gown, bid farewell to his study, and wander with human heart throughout the world. There in the horrors of prisons, lunatic asylums and hospitals, in drab suburban pubs, in brothels and gambling-hells, in the salons of the elegant, the Stock Exchanges, socialist meetings, churches, revivalist gatherings and ecstatic sects, through love and hate, through the experience of passion in every form in his own body, he would reap richer stores of knowledge than text-books a foot thick could give him, and he will know how to doctor the sick with a real knowledge of the human soul. — Carl Jung

Social breakthrough

Keeping in mind that there can be multiple explanations for a single event, Chris’s progress following our Family Constellation sessions with Dr. Stern in July 2006 went like this:

In November 2006, Chris entered into weekly psychotherapy with Dr. Stern. That same month, Emily, the daughter of my university roommate, stayed with us for a weekend. She and Chris went skiing for a day. “How was Chris?” I asked her. “Quiet,” she said. “He was very polite and considerate, but only spoke to me if I spoke to him first.”

In February Emily came back for another visit and some further skiing. “How was Chris?” I asked her, hoping that I knew what she would say. “Oh, just great. He talked with me the whole time. I didn’t need to prompt him. What a big change from November!”

The magic had happened. Chris could now converse with people he didn’t know or didn’t know well. Sometime between November and January, seemingly from one day to the next, he began acting “normal,” despite the fact that he was still on low doses of two antipsychotics and had been on them for thirty-six months and in a day program for twenty-two of those thirty-six months. His day program had ended six months earlier. He left the day program still very much into his shell and not able to establish eye contact with people.

Using holistic therapies, he achieved social breakthrough after seventeen months of vitamin supplements, eight months after the assemblage point shift, six months after Family Constellation Therapy and after three months of seeing Dr. Stern once a week.

He began phoning up friends he hadn’t seen for years to suggest that they get together. He wanted to be around people. This was huge. For Ian and me, it was like a stone had been lifted from us.

From February 2007 on, Chris continued to improve. Dr. Stern and Chris’s holistic psychiatrist worked together over the next year to gradually eliminate his medications while continuing his weekly psychotherapy. His weight dropped as the medications were lowered. By March 2008, he was off all his medications. To illustrate the extreme caution that needs to be exercised when lowering medications, it took almost one whole year for Chris to come off 25 mg of clozapine. By June 2008 his weight was normal once again and he was able to exercise more.

Ian’s and my mistake following this breakthrough was to begin to build up our expectations of Chris. We became impatient for his moving on with his life.

The list of therapies

Psychiatrists say that single events can be over-determined. Rather than there being one reason and only one reason for something happening, there can be multiple explanations for a single event. Chris’s current hospitalization is not the result of a single event. The obvious explanation to the well meaning outsider is that he needed his medications.

The less obvious explanations arise from what had been happening in Chris’s life over the months leading up to this crisis. Despite the vitamin support that had worked so well for him before, during and after he stopped his medications, something scary was now happening. He dropped his classes, stopped his voice lessons, rambled frequently off-topic, and tested the patience of his family and friends alike. It had all the hallmarks of a return of his psychosis. Did I mention he was angry? He started to express anger for the first time in his life. He scraped the flesh off his knuckles by driving his fist so hard into the wall.

Chris has yet to offer a definitive explanation as to why this recent crisis has happened. He does say he truly missed his younger brother Taylor, who went away to university about the same time that Chris started to change. My husband and I say that we pushed him too hard to think about returning to university full time. Our expectations likely frightened him. Other people had expectations, too. Chris’s voice teacher encouraged him to fulfill his considerable potential as a vocalist. I believe that Chris is struggling with the implications of what it means to become well.

I remain convinced that this crisis is a necessary passage for Chris. He is on a more solid platform this time around and will continue to grow in health, thanks to the following:

1. Orthomolecular medicine
2. Medication, when necessary, in low doses and for short duration
3. Energy medicine/EFT/Visualizations
4. Assemblage Point shift and shamanic rituals
5. Magnetic therapy
6. Cathartic psychotherapies/e.g. Family Constellation Therapy
7. The Alexander Technique (not a therapy in the standard sense)
8. The Tomatis Method
9. Psychoacoustics and bioharmonic resonance
10. Time and understanding

In the coming days I will discuss these interventions and more.