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 doctoryourself.com: “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. http://familieshealingtogether.com/

Ron Unger LCSW has an excellent slideshow: Understanding Psychosis as an Attempt to Solve Problems. http://www.slideshare.net/ronunger

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10 thoughts on “The end of the road and it’s now time to spread our wings”

  1. Hi Rossa,

    Wonderful to hear about your son’s road of recovery. Best wishes on continued growth and healing for you and your son.

  2. Well done Rossa (and Chris and all your family). Your blog is a brilliant resource, I often direct people to it. So sad that young people undergoing psychosis are still given such a bleak outlook (I know of a young man recently diagnosed with schizophrenia after his first breakdown, I try not to let this stuff make me angry but it’s hard…) Still, as long as there are people like you out there, there is hope.

    1. Thank you, Louise, and thank you for directing people towards this blog. For some reason, I seem to be getting a jump in readers recently and several are from the U.K.

  3. This is SUCH wonderful news! I am eager to read your book, Ross, and share it widely. Please do keep us updated as to its availability. It will be a real life-saver, I’m sure! THANK YOU for sharing your family’s journey and for your willingness to be transparent and vulnerable.

    1. Suzanne,
      Thank you so much for your encouraging and kind thoughts and for sticking around through some recent turbulence. F.Y.I.I re my book I sometimes wrote imagining you looking over my shoulder helping me to clarify my thinking.

      1. Aww. I am DELIGHTED to learn that I might have served you in some small way as sort of a muse. Awesome! Thanks for telling me that. It means a lot to me.

        Did I see a comment of yours that you’d seen a recent increase in readers from the U.K.? I gotta say, a lot of good came from the “recent tubulence.” Well played, Rossa. Well played.

        When your book becomes available, be assured that I will do everything in my power to promote it.

        Big love to you!

  4. I have read with great interest your article above and a lot of the comments. I will complete reading the comments over the next few days. I am hopeful that I have stumbled across what appears to be very helpful information from a Mothers point of view and experience.

    Until your book is published is there any information that I can research in how you learned to communicate with your son as this is extremely difficult with myself and my son who is 29 and has been told he has schizophrenia. I do not understand what hallucinations and delusions are and what to look out for when someone is going through them.

    1. Hi, Bernadette,
      I should have added the following links to my post. There are two people I can think of off the top of my head who know what they’re talking about in terms of communicating with people in extreme states or struggling with self confidence on a daily basis. Krista McKinnon’s online course is excellent. http://familieshealingtogether.com/ I’ve taken two of them.

      Ron Unger is a social worker who writes extremely thoughtful pieces. You can also just google his name and you’ll probably come up with enough to get you started. The link below is to an online course he gives, and the problem is that I believe these are only available to “professionals.” If so, this is a shame, but he’s probably got more material if you poke around his website. He’s very good at “normalizing” madness.
      http://rossaforbes.com/free-online-training-module-using-normalizing-within-cbt-for-psychosis/
      Best wishes to you and your son, and please feel free to e-mail me should you have further questions.

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