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But then, who is the “I”, the “me”? What did I miss?
If the pink house is entirely gone, annihilated, does not exist anymore, then who is this “I” commenting here?
That said, to a certain extent I agree with you on “recovery”. In the sense that, indeed, what is gone cannot be recovered. But does it have to? I hear a lot of labeled people wish they could go back to what was and who they were before they encountered their crisis. I for one am grateful that what is gone is gone. Even if I could, I wouldn’t want to go back. After all, what has been was what made crisis a necessity. You have to start from scratch when you can’t recover, that’s true. But there’s just so much to discover, when you can’t recover. Though, I’ve never had a pink house to begin with, so what do I know.
“Some people may like to see themselves as having an illness because it conveys a certain level of suffering, and that it is not something they are choosing but rather something that happens to them. In this way some may find it is quite validating of the level of distress or confusion they at times experience.
In an individualistic society people who fail are often blamed for their failures, to be ill means you can seek some refuge from this blame. On the other hand, the other side to this exemption from blame is that the identity of being ill can lead people to feel helpless in the face of their emotional and social difficulties.”
One of the most important questions my therapist asked me was “Do you believe this is something you yourself do, or that it’s just happening to you?” My immediate gut reaction was, it is something I myself do. And so I can choose to stop doing it, and do something else instead. My choice, my responsibility. At that point in time blissfully unaware of modern psychiatry’s groundbreaking research findings, it had never occurred to me that thoughts and emotions could be anything but meaningful and fully understandable responses to life. It made a world of difference.
Blame, self-blame — Initially, I did blame myself. Or, I was angry with myself. Very angry, and sad. That I had allowed the people in my life to drive me crazy. I had never been the invincible, invulnerable creature I’d imagined myself to be. A, at first, very painful realization. I’d failed. On the other hand, it confirmed that, indeed, I was a human being, I belonged to humanity, there was a place for me in the world. I had been hurt, and I had reacted protecting myself in the best way I could. I had been a pretty strong human being, actually. I hadn’t failed, after all.
Bio-genetic explanations may seem guilt-reducing, at first sight. But they certainly don’t reduce shame. Time and again, I see people who believe they are “mentally ill” be stuck in a state of being deeply ashamed of, allegedly, being profoundly different from humanity, lesser-than-human, not belonging in this world, a burden, most efficiently prevented from the healing process of grief and forgiveness, eventually arriving at embracing one’s own human nature. And I don’t think, any “anti”-stigma campaign that holds on to the concept of “mental illness” will ever be able to remove the shame that inevitably follows the belief that one’s innermost human nature, one’s self, is a disease.
BT = behavioral therapy. An acronym for all the acronym therapies.
I believe, which makes a true therapist is being as unconditionally an open and honest — towards oneself and others –, human being as you are, in this post too.
Bob1999, you might as well have said that calling people names is something that will never go away, that it is a necessary tool that we humans use every day to make sense of and communicate about the world. And that all we can do is work to erase the negative stigma, emotions, and self-doubt associated with “mental illness”.
I’d agree that calling people names is a tool to make sense of and communicate about the world. Necessary, though, it will only seem to me to the extent that, for some reason, true understanding represents a threat which projection and scapegoating are perceived as tools to save the person from. Or, if it’s your issue (or shadow, in Jungian terminology), it’s not mine. Or, if I can label the other “mentally ill”, i.e. as not making any sense, it isn’t me who has a problem with true understanding. And for the labeled person herself: In as far as I don’t make any sense, I can avoid having to work towards understanding myself and having to take responsibility for myself.
Erase the negative stigma, emotions, and self-doubt, and what you get is a tool that doesn’t work anymore according to how it initially was invented to work. A useless tool. What we usually do with useless tools is that we toss them out and replace them with new ones that do work, so the whole circus can start all over again. And it won’t end, unless we realize that, whenever we blame the other, or this thing, “mental illness”, for whatever the misery, what we’re actually dealing with, and would have to look at, in the mirror, is our very own problems with making sense of and communicating about the world.
“But, at what point does a little bit better actually become a whole lot worse?” Thank you so much for that! “Peers” have recently started to become very popular here in Denmark, too. — “Oh, look how well this works in the U.S., we should have that, here too!” — I saw a job ad some time ago, by the regional mh services. It explicitly stated that applicants had to have a bio-genetic understanding of “mental illness” to be considered for the job. Need I say more… But, of course, they’re not stupid. Nothing can convince the uninsightful who toss out their “meds” all the time and insist they’re not diseased that, indeed, they’re suffering from an incurable brain disease that needs life-long medication like a “peer”, someone who’s had the experience themselves. You can argue with theoretical knowledge, but who can argue with lived experience?… — “It’s tough, I know, I’ve been there myself! But look how well I‘m doing now that I have insight into my illness, and do as my p-doc says taking my meds every day as prescribed! I even got a job!” — That’s where I see the little bit better become the most whole lot worse.
The interview is named after the Dutch city Maastricht at whose university Marius Romme was professor of social psychiatry when he developed the interview together with Patsy Hage.
-_anonymous, the “believing you’re being spied on movement” does in fact already exist, although it’s called the Paranoia Network. http://www.nationalparanoianetwork.org
Good question, _anonymous. To me, the price we pay for recovery is indeed to be sentenced to not only lifelong witnessing of a vulgar display of what psychiatry is still doing to others, but to being aware in general, and having to learn how to deal with whatever comes to our awareness in the most constructive way. Which can be quite a challenge.
Nobody needs a psychiatrist to prescribe a sleeping pill, any physician, no matter the speciality, can prescribe one, and a sleeping pill for someone in distress who hasn’t been able to sleep for some time,is about what I’d accept in terms of psych drugs.
I disagree that we couldn’t do without a wannabe-medical speciality dealing with what aren’t, never were, and never will be medical conditions. Humanity has done without it for thousands and ten thousands of years, and mostly with far better outcomes than those produced by psychiatry.
And apropos of the outcomes, what I observe, time and again, is that it is those who reject psychiatry, its labels and its “treatments” who have the best long-term outcomes. I’m with Jacqui Dillon on this, who says in her excellent talk “The personal is political”, “I’m not mentally ill, never was, never will be.” Back when I experienced my last and most serious crisis, and my therapist tried desperately to persuade me to go and see a psychiatrist, the guerrilla inside of me said, ‘You’re not sick. Why on earth would you want to go and see a medical professional? No way!’ I’m glad that the guerrilla won, that I held onto this conviction, and didn’t give in to the pressure from my therapist and the victim inside, back then. And I’m glad that my therapist eventually respected my decision. Victims don’t recover. Guerrillas do. Psychiatry nurtures and nurses the victim, and fights the guerrilla. With everything it does. Right from its start, it has been designed to do so. Saying “no” to life, and producing victims is, has always been, and will always be psychiatry’s very essence.
Open Dialogue works for a lot of people because the role psychiatric practice plays in it is as limited and peripheral as it is. It might work for even more people, if all psychiatric involvement was removed from it, i.e. if there were no elements at all in the approach that in any way feed the victim, instead of the guerrilla, or survivor, or whatever you want to call this energy inside all of us and its unconditional “yes” to life.
“On the other hand, severe mental disturbance can be prolonged and disabling. Looking at hospital records from before the days of modern drugs, some people never came out of it, and spent their lives in a state of extreme confusion and degradation, unable to perform the most basic functions, or to communicate with anyone around them.”
If there’s anything I would take issue with in this blog, it’s the above quoted statement. I work at an acute crisis center, located in the same building as a residential facility with whom we have some collaboration, meaning that I, at times, have been working at the residential facility, too. Some of the residential facility’s residents never came out of it, and some will never come out of it, spending their lives in a state of extreme zombification and not only psychological but also physical degradation, unable, also physically, to perform the most basic functions or to communicate with anyone around them (other than a 3-year-old communicates). What has changed? How have “anti”psychotics actually done anything good? As far as I can see, all they’ve done is that, today, it’s a different group of those who experience “psychosis” who ends up institutionalised, all the while there still are quite a few who end up institutionalised, probably as many as in the pre-neuroleptic era. And while today’s residential facilities aren’t called “hospitals”, I really don’t see the big difference to the back wards of the past.
Chrys, unlike what a lot of parents themselves think is their right in relation to their children, I’m not advising parents how they should act or what they should feel. But whenever a grown-up person tries to tell me they don’t have a choice, they’re the victim — of the system, of its deception, of its lack of alternatives, or, on the other hand, of Whitaker, of “mental illness”, of their “mentally ill” sons and daughters, and whatnot — and that that’s what causes all their pain and suffering, I always draw their attention to the fact that, while their pain and suffering is real, it’s also theirs, which means that they do have a choice in terms of what to do with it. I’ve never seen the “I’m in pain because I’m a victim, and therefor I can’t do anything but being in pain and being the victim,” lead to anything constructive. On the contrary, I’ve seen it create nothing but havoc not only for the person who refuses to own their pain and take responsibility for it themselves, like a truly grown-up person would do, but also for everybody around them, their children very much included.
In the first chapter of “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” Caroline Myss describes an incident she once witnessed at Findhorn. One member of the community asks another whether she would be able to show some visitors around on a certain day. A “yes” or “no” question, that doesn’t get answered with a “yes” or “no”, but with a rather long speech about how it is impossible for the person to show anyone around Findhorn that particular day, and actually equals an insult to them that they were asked about it at all, because they have their incest support group meeting on the same day, and they’d never ever miss that meeting, because blahblahblah… read: I’m a victim! How dare you question my victim status, asking me to do something else on the day of my incest support group meeting (which, never mind, the person asking had no idea was on that same day), and treat me like I was, well, just a person, an ordinary human being, and not a victim, entitled to be handled with kid gloves and special attention?! Which again translates into: How dare you inflict even more pain on me who already is in so much pain?!
We can choose to engage in this kind of communication where we use our respective pain as a “street currency”, as Myss calls it, buying ourselves entitlement with our wounds, and as a consequence we’ll never be able to heal. Or we can take ownership of and responsibility for our wounds and pain ourselves, and heal.
I for one have chosen to prefer the possibility of healing, so I don’t accept pain as a currency. “Parents are already in so much pain, so let’s give them some slack,” won’t work with me. Neither will the “You’re not a parent, you have no idea!” thing. I’m a human being, and as such I know pain. I don’t need to be a parent to know it. “My pain is greater than yours”? Won’t work with me either. Or maybe you can tell me exactly how many grams heavier your pain is than mine? Or how many inches longer than mine it is? Let’s be honest, Chrys, you can’t. And it’s not a competition to start with, or is it?
However, I’m not interested in cultivating wounds and pain. I’m interested in healing. And when somebody chooses to cultivate their wounds and pain in plain public, and with an option, maybe even an invitation like on Pete Earley’s blog, to respond, well, I may respond. To keep my response civil, and the contents relevant to the subject is my responsibility. What the person does with my response is theirs. I can’t and certainly won’t force anybody to take it as good advice, if that’s not what they want to do. Healing doesn’t come from without, it comes from within. But that doesn’t mean that no one is allowed to challenge the victim who’s in love with their pain.
Chrys, I agree that judging people isn’t the way. But, frankly, the only ones I see really judged in all this are the people who get slapped with a psych label. I posted the link to this article: http://beyondmeds.com/2013/08/05/we-get-traumatized/ in our discussion on Facebook earlier today. To say that somebody is traumatized isn’t the same as judging them. It’s to say that they are human beings.
As for trauma, yes, it results in people getting emotionally stuck. If it doesn’t, it’s not trauma. But getting emotionally stuck doesn’t mean that one necessarily remains emotionally stuck for the rest of their life, and that there’s no way how they could get unstuck. Actually, I regard crisis, “psychosis” or other, an attempt to get unstuck, and thus exactly the opportunity to journey, transition, and become a stronger, more conscious and whole person than one was before, and maybe even than the average, “normal”, person ever has the chance to become. It’s not either – or, it’s both – and. One can’t get unstuck unless they have been stuck. And nobody has yet embarked on a journey to transition because they were perfectly happy with their life. It is pain and suffering, or at least some sort of discomfort that has people embark on such a journey.
Cutting some slack on parents who are in pain because of, according to them, their child’s “mental illness”, is doing them quite a disservice, IMO. These people’s pain isn’t caused by their children’s “mental illness”. It’s been there long before these people became parents, and also long before their children started to behave “mentally ill” and got labeled so for it. If they are to ever get a chance to heal from that pain, they need to understand that it’s their pain, and therefor their responsibility. Not their children’s, or that of this “mental illness” thing. And unfortunately most people won’t understand this as long as holding their children, or this “mental illness” thing responsible for their misery works for them. The more we cut some slack on them, the more we make it work for them.
I’m not a parent. I’m a daughter who clearly sees the pain her parents were in. But it wasn’t my pain, and so it wasn’t my responsibility. No matter how much they tried to make it that in their vain efforts to get some relief. The only way out of suffering is through taking ownership and responsibility for one’s pain. And this is not done by blaming others, if it’s Bob Whitaker, a son, a daughter, a “mental illness”, whoever or whatever.
Chrys, I didn’t say parents do it on purpose, intentionally harming their children. I’m with Loren Mosher here, who said: “’With rare exceptions, I think parents do their best. They try. But there are a lot of ways in which they can go astray. One way is if the parents themselves were raised in homes where they didn’t learn to think straight. They grew up, and they can think straight enough to get along, go to school, whatever.’ But when a person with this kind of communication style marries someone from a similar one, ‘You can get two parents who are just loose as a goose.’” http://www.moshersoteria.com/articles/after-all-these-years/ None of us is perfect. One kind of imperfection is when there’s a lack of consistency in our communication, when we don’t say what we mean, which in most cases, and although it’s the inevitable result, isn’t done with the intention to confuse the other, but because we ourselves are afraid of and confused about what we actually mean, our own truth. The parents of people labeled with “schizophrenia” are some of the most confused, insecure and scared people I’ve ever seen. At the same time, and without being aware of it, they do whatever it takes to hide their own confusion, insecurity and fear from others as well as from themselves, as it would be too painful for them to face the fact that they’re traumatized human beings themselves.
The hell I’m talking about is that of “mental illness”. Not the one of not being able to find real help. Too scared to face their own trauma, parents have asked psychiatry to come up with an explanation for children’s reactions to their parents’ trauma that allows the parents to keep denying their own trauma. That’s what psychiatry has done in creating the concept of “mental illness”. Now the very same parents who asked for “mental illness” to be created in the first place keep lamenting the suffering their children’s “mental illness” puts them through. And the maybe strangest thing is that whenever somebody suggests that this “mental illness” thing that puts them through such unbearable suffering might just be an artificial construct, more or less pure fiction, that in reality things might look a lot brighter, there immediately is an outrage, you’re hung, drawn and quartered for just suggesting that the suffering could come to an end. Another inconsistency in these parents’ communication that makes one wonder what it actually is that they want. Do they want to suffer, or not?
Whether we’re talking individual illness, or not, symptoms, or not, pathology, or not is, to put it mildly, debatable. So far, no individual pathology has been proven to exist, and even professionals are divided on the question whether “mental illness” is real illness, or rather a healthy reaction to “sick”, metaphorically understood, circumstances like family dysfunction. I’d say, the proof is in the pudding, i.e. in the outcomes of the different approaches to “mental illness” which are based on their respective view of what “mental illness” actually is. So far the individual “illness”/”symptoms”/”pathology” view and approach have failed greatly.
I can’t see anything “stigmatizing” in acknowledging that human beings can be traumatized by life, with trauma causing the person to be stuck in their emotional development. The only “stigma” I see are the labels that define people’s reactions to life as “pathological”, an “illness”, something that shouldn’t be.
You can’t agree that it might turn out problematic, if somebody whose emotional maturity is that of a child, has children of their own? Are you saying that?
The quotation marks have come to stay until the day a pathology for “mental illness” has been scientifically proven to exist.
I agree that healing cannot be accomplished without the insight that parents who pass on trauma to their children are traumatized themselves.
Nevertheless, healing for the person in crisis starts with having their pain and trauma recognized. Labeling people with “schizophrenia” or other “mental illness” doesn’t recognize any pain and trauma. On the contrary, it denies it. Also, who is actually labeled “defective”, locked up, and (forcibly) drugged with life shortening, brain-damaging substances? Who is put through both psychological and physical abuse (once again)?
The hell parents with labeled offspring, like the mother, go through, is largely a self-created and self-perpetuated one. The parents usually are the ones who think of themselves as reasonable grown-up people. If they really are, they start asking themselves, seriously, what it is about themselves, their attitude towards their children, that causes their children to react “insane”, and they take responsibility for their pain and trauma, instead of trying to blame their children for what in reality is their own undealt with pain and trauma. Also, if a parent manages to keep their child dependent on them into adulthood, they can’t blame Whitaker, or anybody else for that sake, if they lose control over them. It’s their, and only their, responsibility to stay in control of their — grown-up — child. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Only narcissists think they can.
What happened before your friend turned into an adolescent? The foundations for “schizophrenia” are laid in early childhood, not in adolescence. And both overprotection and neglect may communicate the message “You’re useless/worthless.” A father who suffers from “schizophrenia”, and who, since he, as I suppose, thought of himself as suffering from “schizophrenia”, hasn’t taken responsibility for himself, is a kid having a kid. Kids having kids is a certain recipe for disaster.
I didn’t say that you were claiming that family dysfunction causes “mental illness”. I said it is what I’ve experienced.
“I will say that if we’re going to claim that the causes of mental illness are entirely environmental and that the family is usually culpable, then we also need to acknowledge that this is most likely an intergenerational problem passed down through trauma, upbringing, etc,…” I agree. Still, people who think they’re grown-up enough to have children of their own should also be prepared to be grown-up enough to take responsibility for whatever they pass on to their children.
“her son hasn’t been able to function and take proper care of himself”
The question is, how he ended up unable to function and take proper care of himself. The pattern I’ve seen time and again play out in families with offspring that gets labeled with “schizophrenia” is that the offspring more or less constantly and from early childhood on was/is told — through words and/or actions — that they are unable to function and take proper care of themselves. Whatever they try, it can never be good enough. Why others, namely the parent/-s, need to step in and take control. People don’t learn how to function and take proper care of themselves by having others control — and criticize — every move they make.
Isn’t it thought-provoking that an approach that recognizes family dysfunction as the cause of “mental illness” has the by far best outcomes? It’s got nothing to do with attacking anybody. But becoming a parent doesn’t miraculously turn people into small gods, perfect human beings who never make a mistake. Like every human being, parents usually have “issues” too. We don’t do them, neither, a favor if we support them in their denial of these “issues” and their projecting them onto their offspring. “Mental illness” in a family can be a breakthrough for everybody involved. But only if everybody takes their part of responsibility for the creation of the “mental illness”.
One thing is that Stucker only quotes one single person who thinks he would be dead had he not been committed. I hear these statements actually all the time, “Had I not been committed/forcibly drugged/restrained, I would have died!” Would have. Subjunctive. During my last crisis, almost 10 years ago, I often asked myself, ‘What am I going to do, if I get locked up/forcibly drugged/restrained?’ And I was pretty sure that the answer was that I’d off myself at the first occasion. Especially in case of forced drugging, as I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to live with myself not being me anymore. But I wasn’t committed/forcibly drugged/restrained, and so, if I’m honest, I can’t tell with the absolute certainty I see expressed in statements like the one quoted by Stucker what I actually would have done, what would have happened — subjunctive. And so I wonder where such absolute certainty about the outcome of something that never happened comes from.
The subjunctive IMO is of no further interest to a factual debate. Which is of interest are the actual results of what actually happened. And while people in crisis sometimes, and probably also more often than the average person, do make bad choices, there are at least as many who’ve died while under involuntary psychiatric “care”. Add to these all the many many people who end up severely re-traumatized by it. And frankly, somebody trying to tell me that torture and abuse was what saved their life, I can’t help it but I always smell a big fat Stockholm syndrome rat…
Greg, it wasn’t my intention to say that it’s an all or nothing dynamic per se, and that to criticize someone’s actions, beliefs, etc., one has to attack them. In fact, I believe attacking people is pretty unlikely to open their minds to whatever the critique of their actions, beliefs, etc.. What I was trying to say is that it is my strong impression that the mother in question here out of her own powerlessness has developed a set of coping strategies which includes the conviction that, whatever it is that doesn’t pan out in her life, it is somebody else’s fault. She isn’t responsible for any of it herself, she is the incarnation of perfection, she’s never wrong, or makes a mistake. And if things go wrong, if anybody dares to doubt her perfection, the 100% correctness of her beliefs to be the one and only truth, doesn’t agree 100% with her, doesn’t follow her orders to the letter, she is always the Victim, and the Victim only. The possibility that she might be just another imperfect human being, like everybody else, doesn’t exist in her universe. People who employ this set of coping strategies usually have an exceptional ability to twist and turn things that makes even the most polite and compassionate critique look like the worst personal attack on them. Never mention what happens when you, matter of fact and straight forward, unravel what they’ve made an effort to obscure and mystify, and see right through their tactics. I’ve quite some experience with trying to debate these people. It’s plain impossible.
Matthew, yes, I mean “white culture”.
This is in reply to Berit, 5:22 am. I’m not sure that it’s because African Americans are more skeptical to authority. But theirs is a very different culture than modern western civilization one of whose main characteristics I see is the worship of the individual and the general alienation it brings about. Psychiatry is a product of modern western civilization. Its labels and drugging target the individual, the identified “mental patient”. Believing that all things and all beings in this world are connected, which is an accepted truth in many cultures, actually can be interpreted as a “symptom” of one’s “illness” in modern western civilization. Because it threatens the delusion our culture, modern western civilization, suffers from that the individual would be the be all and end all, and that community, connectedness, and social accountability mean nothing. Among African Americans, and other people from a cultural background different from modern western civilization, you’ll often find a somewhat higher developed sense for the community, and if you value the community at least the same as the individual, and maybe even higher, you’ll almost automatically look for answers/solutions to the questions/challenges you face in the community, instead of in the individual, as modern western civilization increasingly does, also by labeling and drugging the individual.
Greg, IMO the mother is not just the victim of the psych industry you picture her to be. She writes in her letter that she was worried when her son wanted to go and listen to Whitaker’s talk. Why would she have been worried, unless she knew what the talk would be about? And if she knew what it would be about, it means that she’s known, probably for some time before the NAMI convention, that there’s a different story out there than the one she’s chosen to buy into, and to sell to her son as the one and only truth. If it really is her son’s wellbeing that is her main concern, why wasn’t she curious to learn more about this different story? Why didn’t she discuss it with her son (all she mentions is that he heard about it from others)? Why didn’t she start to educate herself about psych drugs, withdrawal, different views of what “mental illness” is, etc. etc., and get her son interested in these things too, like Rossa for instance has done? Why is it as important to her as it obviously is when you read the passage in her letter about Open Dialogue working for some, but not for “any one else”, read: not for her son, to maintain the belief that her son is brain diseased and in need of “medication”, no matter what? Why does she, although she knows about Whitaker and his message keep dismissing her son’s voices that told him “we were devils, our house was haunted by evil spirits and we were trying to poison him. He said God was commanding him to not live with us anymore,” as “nonsense”, when actually these voices become pretty meaningful seen in context with what the science, quoted by Whitaker, tells us about neuroleptics, and we know that the mother doesn’t support any attempt by her son to come off them, actually even tries everything to keep him from even thinking about it?
She’s had her possibility to question. She didn’t make use of it. IMO misinformation from the psych industry alone doesn’t explain this mother’s rejection of anything but the “it’s a brain disease that needs to be medicated” stance. There are other forces at play. It is my experience with the forces that I see at play here that the only chance one has to comment and not offend the person under the influence of these forces is by agreeing entirely with their point of view. Anything else they will regard a personal attack on them, no matter how respectfully and compassionately one words it, and the way they know how to appear as the Victim, capital ”V”, will probably even make others see a personal attack where there really only is a pointing out of what the person herself already has reveiled herself. So, one has the choice, critique their point of view, and risk to be seen as the ”bad guy”, even by others, and even by those who otherwise share your opinions, or – well, if you can’t agree, do nothing, don’t comment, don’t critique, unless you want to be the ”bad guy”. Which means that, once again, the facts are hidden away, can’t be mentioned and talked about openly. It’s a win-win situation for her. At least to the extent that people buy into the ”I am the victim here!” thing.
I wrote this several hours ago, but had no chance to post it before now. Reading Seth’s comment, I wholeheartedly agree, you might as well talk to a wall. Still, I think Rossa’s comments are important. Not because I would have any hope that they could change the mother’s mind in any way. But it is this kind of stonewalling that drives people crazy, and understanding what drove you crazy in the first place is the first step on the road to recovery. So, somebody following the thread at Pete Earley’s blog and reading Rossa’s comments might be helped by them. Even if it’s not the mother.
It has always amazed me how, to people like Pete Earley, death seems to be acceptable, maybe a little tragic, but still acceptable, as long as it occurs as a ”side” effect of psychiatric ”treatment”, while the mere possibility of a fatal outcome is unacceptable as soon as it occurs in context with free and informed choice.
We’re not born into this world knowing everything about how to make the most constructive choices. We have to learn it, and we all learn it by making our own choices. But nobody can make constructive choices if they’re denied access to all the information important to the specific choice. Keeping information from people, lying to them about the facts, will almost inevitably lead to ”bad” choices being made. What I find particularly interesting here — alongside with the phenomenon that in fact grown-up people consistently are referred to as “children”, i.e. human beings who still haven’t learned enough about this world to be able to make constructive choices concerning all parts of their lives — is that, in general, I experience quite a bit of secrecy, mystification, outright lying, and sweeping things under the carpet in the families of labeled people. Usually more than in other families. And it doesn’t start with, or is limited to keeping for a truly constructive choice important information about, well not just psychiatric ”treatment”, but the nature of the labels themselves, hidden from the labeled person. It starts with the family secrets, the skeletons in the closet, the elephant in the living room, the existence and nature of which the ”bad” choices of the labeled person threaten to reveil, which again has earned the person in question their label. The secrecy, closedness and lying toward labeled people Pete Earley and his likes openly advocate for indeed are necessary if the family secrets are to be kept secret, the skeletons are to be kept inside the closet, the elephant in the living room is to be kept unseen. And so ”bad” choices and, in the end, fatal outcomes are passed on from one generation to the next. If anybody has ”blood on their hands” it’s these people, who’ve decided that being able to continue and live their lie is more important than facing the truth and being able, they themselves as well as everybody under their influence, to make constructive choices on the basis of it. If their offspring is “mentally ill”, i.e. keeps making “bad” choices, choices that don’t take all the important information about the subject into account, then these people should ask themselves who it is that kept important information hidden from their offspring, who it is that kept their offspring in the dark, and about as educated about the world as the kindergarten child they themselves fancy to reduce their, mostly, grown-up sons and daughters to.
Sandra, “we” as in “we as a society”.
Sandra, there’s one issue, related to what Stephen writes below, all of which I completely agree with, I would take with your comment above. If we are to be that respectful of people’s experiences, wouldn’t we then also have to respect it if someone chose alcohol, or recreational drugs above psych drugs? And why aren’t we, usually? Why do we even apply dual diagnosis, and double-up the psych drug ”treatment”, instead of saying, “Oh wonderful! This person has found a way to treat their problem all on their own”?
Sandra, where I have the impression, upon reading this post and the comments, that we disagree is in our respective fundamental approach to the subject, and maybe even in our view of what life is all about in general. I’ve been looking at D2 receptors, GABA, and whatnot of the kind, me too in the past, and I still sometimes look at it, although my neuroscientific/psychopharmacological knowledge isn’t as profound as yours, or some of the commenters here. I must admit that right from the start I didn’t expect that looking at these things alone could give any satisfactory answers to the questions that are most important to me, and which I believe differ slightly from the questions that seem to be most important to you.
I usually tell people who come to me asking for help with their existential problems, many of whom (unfortunately) assume that they have something wrong with their brains, their D2 receptors, or their GABA, or whatnot of that kind (because they’ve heard about brain diseases and chemical imbalances somewhere in the media), that I am willing to try and help them learn how to navigate life, the painful aspects of it included, but that, in case they for some reason don’t think they can learn this, or don’t want to learn it, I unfortunately can’t help them, and they’d have to go see someone else. Now, I’m not a medical professional, and don’t have prescribing rights, so even if I believed psych drugs to be a solution, I couldn’t help people who asked for the quick fix — or, as I see it, in many cases for just another way to remain the victim in their lives, and to self-harm — and would have to send them to go and see someone else to get some. On the other hand, even if I was a medical professional with prescribing rights, I would prescribe psych drugs as much as I would recommend a bottle of whiskey (or two) daily to people in emotional distress. I’d rather go back to working as a stable manager. Honestly (although some people have this romanticized idea that it’s all about stroking and hugging horses all day, it’s hard physical work, nothing much romantic about it, believe me!). What made me arrive at such a, probably in your view rather radical, stance towards psych drugs isn’t that much knowledge about their effects on D2 receptors, GABA, and whatnot, as it is simply seeing what they do to people on an existential level, and what they, in a wider perspective, do to mankind’s self-understanding, and to the world.
So, while I agree that it is of importance that we learn about these drugs’ effects on our physiology/neurology, to me the more important question is what do they do to us in existential terms. That’s why I would like to see more qualitative research done that goes (far) beyond just asking people whether they feel helped by these drugs, or not. I’ve always been of the conviction that science without philosophy, while it may have some entertaining value, won’t get us anywhere. Especially not in a field like the mh one, which IMO primarily is a philosophical and political, not so much a scientific, one. I mean, upon Andreasen et al.’s “discovery” that neuroleptics cause brain shrinkage, we’ve seen researchers claim that maybe brain shrinkage is what’s needed to successfully treat “schizophrenia”. More quantitative research that shows these drugs to cause brain damage will hardly be able to counter that argument.
“In any given person, however, it is impossible to know what is placebo effect and what is a drug effect.” Exactly. I’d think that whenever you give somebody who experiences extreme states of mind any substance with especially tranquilizing properties, they may experience more of a reduction of their “symptoms” than if you give them a pill with no active substance at all, or even with something like caffeine for instance. Simply because the substance does something, and the something it does is that it slows/shuts down the higher brain functioning necessary to stay alert and keep thinking (creatively, on one’s own, as opposed to more or less indifferently engaging in parroting conventional “wisdom”). Quite a few people use alcohol and recreational drugs to calm themselves down (so-called “self-medicalization”). But we don’t refer to alcohol and recreational drugs as “antipsychotics”, do we?
Personally, I have a hard time imagining that any of the chemical substances we know would be able to read the mind of a psychiatrist and target specifically the thoughts s/he views as “symptoms”, while leaving all others intact. The only way of drug action that, if it was possible, then would make for a specific antipsychotic effect. I have a hard time imagining it, and I must say, I haven’t seen it happen yet with any of the people on “antipsychotics” I know. All I see is in fact “tranquilization”, i.e. generally slowed/shut down ability to think.
Sandra, your reasoning here implies that there would be no such thing as the placebo effect. The thing is, the placebo effect is real, very real. Especially with psych drugs. And some people have more faith in the magic powers of a pill than others — who probably end up labeled “treatment resistant”.
Duane, that’s what I’m saying. And I certainly didn’t want to imply that you were the one who doesn’t respect people’s definition of themselves and their experience. I know that you do.
Matthew, I believe the people having (had) the experience do know, and they’re telling us clearly and unmistakably about it in their “psychotic ramblings”. The primary fallacy of the whole psychiatric experiment IMO is that our society and a group of people, the professionals, have decided to label certain people “insane” for their experiences and behavior, and to define “insane” as “not to be listened to/not to be taken seriously”. IMO the “we don’t know” statement is counterproductive as it, too, is dismissive of the voice of the labeled person herself, especially the voice of those who haven’t yet learned to see themselves through the eyes of others (psychiatry).
As I see it, the problem we’re having in this discussion here (and have had in others before) is not so much that some people believe in one cause, and others in another one, but that it obviously is extremely difficult for some people to consider the possibility of different causes, among these also non-medical ones, why they seem to have a hard time respecting the voices of those who know that their individual experience is/was caused by non-medical factors, that indeed their experience is/was not the expression of some sort of malfunctioning on their part, which is what the labels suggest, but a meaning- and purposeful reaction to life. Why they would prefer to not have their experience labeled in pseudo-medical terms like “psychosis”, “schizophrenia”, “bipolar”, etc.
So, while I am glad to see that there is some respect from the particular commenter toward the fact that some people know existential, spiritual, psycho-social, whatever you want to call it, factors caused their experience, I unfortunately don’t see that respect displayed toward those of us who don’t want their, by existential, spiritual, psycho-social,… factors caused, experience labeled an “illness”, “psychosis”, “schizophrenia”, “bipolar”, or other. Thus, once again we’re denied our voice.
Thank you, Seth!
I’d like to add a question for Maria: What would you do if somebody told you they were hearing the voices of a bunch of bullies that they’ve actually been stalked by in the past? Would you send them to a hospital to have multiple testings for somatic illness run, until something, anything, a bad tooth, whatever, was found, because something definitely must be wrong with a person who reacts to life? What would you do, if the voices didn’t disappear although the medical problem had been solved? Start all over again, because it can’t be life, there are no dysfunctional relationships, no bullying, no abuse, no neglect, no violence so extreme in our society that a reaction as extreme as that which gets labeled “psychosis” would be perfectly meaningful and understandable? Start all over again, although the person told you that they know they aren’t sick, but reacting to past traumatic experiences?
To answer your question below what I would do if I, or someone I know, experienced extreme states of mind: I’d do the same that I’ve done before, and that I today continue to do in my workplace, and ask: What has happened to me/you? It has worked for me, it has worked for innumerable people, and it continues to work for innumerable people. The proof is in the pudding. As Seth quotes: Open Dialogue, 80%, 83% to be precise, recovery.
“I find this blog a hard read.” Me too! It reminds me of the client my therapist once told me about, who was afraid that if he had a knife, he wouldn’t be able to control himself and would hurt her. What did she do? Remove anything from her office that only remotely resembled a knife? Got him committed? No. The next session she put a knife on the table between him and her, easy to grab for him and actually hurt her, who due to a disability couldn’t even jump up and run away. He didn’t. She neither got me committed although she knew I was pretty much “suicidal” — make that convinced I would have to rid myself of my body in order to save myself, if that makes sense. Of course she was taking a risk, in both instances. But life is risky by nature, isn’t it? And nobody has yet learned to take responsibility for the risks they take, the choices they make, their life, themselves, by having others take responsibility for them. Fear doesn’t make the world a safer place. Trust does.
Nine out of ten, yes. And I would have been no. 10, unable to put my finger on anything traumatizing in my life. Okay, a few things maybe hadn’t been that much fun to experience. But hey, I was untouchable, wasn’t I! Yeah sure. So much so that I wasn’t even one of these pitiably fragile human beings. — “Delusions”? Or just a desperate attempt to keep up a sense of self in the face of annihilation? — That, after all, I was one of these pitiably fragile human beings, and pretty much hurt, shattered actually, on top of it, was an excruciatingly painful realization. I do understand why sometimes labeled people have a hard time letting go of the illusion of the perfectly happy childhood: “Trauma?! What do you mean, trauma?! I wasn’t traumatized!!” I guess, we’ve all heard that one. Often vocalized in this quite telling, somewhat indignant, aggressive manner. The sad thing about this is that you can’t put the pieces (back) together and heal, unless you realize that you were born neither untouchable nor with a broken brain, but simply as a human being, pitiably fragile maybe, but also with an unlimited ability to heal.
Jonah, thanks. Yes, I totally agree. I was only and solely referring to grown-up people who, even when they have a choice, still choose the greater misery over the lesser one. And I maybe also should add that “choice” isn’t quite the right word here, as it usually isn’t the person herself making that choice, consciously, but the victim inside who derives a sense of identity and legitimacy from the experience of misery, and for whom therefor misery becomes the desirable.
Even that “psychosis” would be some sort of distinct entity, clearly distinguishable from — uh, what? “No psychosis”? “Normal”?… — by some sort of clearly discernible pathology, which, in case, would make for a valid diagnosis, is a false claim. “Antipsychotics” are about as beneficial to those labeled with “psychosis” (or “schizophrenia”) as they are to anybody else. I.e. if you wish to be turned into a gibbering wreck, they are beneficial. Whether you have a psych label, or not. However, most people experience other drugs as doing the job in a far more pleasant way, why they prefer these to neuroleptics. The exception are those who prefer to escape from the unpleasantness of life not into the pleasantness of a drug, but into its unpleasantness.
“With regard to schizophrenia, I have seen people who were very frightened during their delusions and hallucinations. They looked like they were suffering.”
Have you ever been very frightened while thinking certain thoughts? Did you look like you were suffering while being frightened thinking these certain thoughts? Now you will probably object that, yes, but your experience was very different from “schizophrenia” in that the very frightening thoughts that crossed your mind, and thus caused you to look like you were suffering, were based on reality, and thus meaningful, while those of “schizophrenics” are not. At least, this is the argument usually brought up by the proponents of the “it’s all some brain stuff gone awry” perspective on so-called “schizophrenia”. But how can you know? How can you be sure that what you call “delusions” and “hallucinations” isn’t based on any reality at all? Have you always, in each and every case, fully explored each and every imaginable interpretation of these “delusions” and “hallucinations” before you arrived at the conclusion that they’re not based on any reality? Or is there a possibility that the label, “mental illness”, i.e. meaningless, not based on reality, maybe made you jump to the conclusion without further investigation whenever something didn’t immediately fit into your own concept of reality? Is it maybe possible that “meaningless madness” actually more is a problem of somebody not being able (or willing) to understand than of somebody not making sense because of a broken brain “gone awry”?
I’d encourage you to take a look at other than the biomedical, positivistic reductionist, indeed, perspectives. Perspectives such as Finnish Open Dialogue’s, or the Hearing Voices Network’s (Rufus May, who somebody already has mentioned, Jacqui Dillon, and Olga Runciman are all prominent representatives of the HVN and its perspective on altered states of consciousness, and they’re bloggers on this site) which all view “schizophrenia” as “just part of being alive”. I’d especially encourage you to take a thorough look at the outcomes of these approaches, and compare them to the outcomes of the biomedical, broken brain “gone awry” approach. The HVN’s outcomes aren’t documented other than in personal accounts. We believe that personal accounts, qualitative research so to speak, are what counts. We are the evidence: http://www.madinamerica.com/2013/05/voices-matter/. It may not be RCT-based evidence, but nevertheless, and like Olga Runciman says in this interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnsCyR59Hd8, we see people recover when we sit down and engage in a dialogue with them about their experiences, and maybe even with their voices, while we don’t see them recover in a system where the best they can hope for is that somebody comes by and offers a little distraction, for instance in the shape of playing a board game. The question I think is whether you regard life to be just another RCT, or whether there maybe is a little more to it. A collection of personal accounts can be found in the book “Living with Voices. 50 stories of recovery” (http://www.intervoiceonline.org/publications/personal-experiences). Anyway, the outcomes of Finnish Open Dialogue are well-documented according to the standards of quantitative research (the recovery rate is actually 83% — somebody quoted 80% — achieved by providing human support, to use your own words), and thus a little easier to access for somebody who, as I presume, hasn’t been looking at these things before.
I do understand how it can be quite comforting to try and establish and maintain a sense of safety in the face of the complexity of life in trying to understand life as merely being the sum of its material parts (you might also be interested in Paris William’s brilliant essay “Rethinking Mental Health, Part 1: From Positivism to a Holistic/Organismic Paradigm”, recently posted on this site), which we, if only we can get to see them all on a CT or fMRI scan, then would be able to gain complete control over. Unfortunately, I think, it is a false sense of safety this denial of the complexity of life has us gain, and as such all it will create is an ever growing and, no matter how much knowledge we gather together, forever unsatisfied need for control, which on its part will create not less, but ever more suffering. — And isn’t it that we can see this actually happen, not least in the mh field: the more we label (categorize) and “treat” (control) the greater and the more widespread the suffering becomes. — A true sense of safety is based on trust, and the wisdom that has you trust in life. It is not based on knowledge gathered together in order to gain control over what more often than not are our very own, deepest fears. Without doubt, there is a somewhat entertaining quality to looking at CT and fMRI scans. That there would be any value beyond the entertainment to it when it comes to understanding existential suffering, I seriously doubt.
I couldn’t agree with you (both, Cataract and _Anonymous) more. And even more unfixable it becomes when the offspring is “genetically sensitive”. I’d like to see the genetic sensitivity before I’m asked to accept it as the proven fact the authors of the study seem to think it is.
I haven’t observed any healing going on neither in the brains nor the minds of people who are on neuroleptics. I’ve only seen the outer manifestations of increasing brain damage, and a mind that, due to the damage done to its tool the brain, got trapped in one-way thinking. In order to work through and heal from their trauma, people need to have their mental capacities left intact, which on its part requires that these capacities’ tool, the brain, is left intact and functioning. Put the mind’s tool, the brain, out of action, and what you get is somebody who can no longer react to life. That certainly is convenient for a society that can’t/won’t deal with people’s reactions to it where these represent a challenge to its at any time agreed upon norms and values. But it’s got nothing to do with “improvement”, or even healing. Actually, suppressing brain activity, and by doing so the person’s ability to react to life, only adds to the initial, trauma-caused stress on this person’s brain and mind. Just because you’ve succeeded in making it difficult, or even impossible for the person to react to the stress they experience, and just because you maybe even have succeeded in getting the person detached from their stress, that doesn’t mean you’ve succeeded in reducing the stress itself.
You don’t need a neuroleptic to get some sleep. A simple sleeping pill can do, if nothing else works. But neuroleptics do indeed have a place in a society that does not offer non-drug support, and where the only “alternative” to, “voluntarily”, inflicting brain damage on yourself is being forcibly brain damaged by others, often in combination with a locked-ward sentence of unknown length. Worrying to me is that Joanna Moncrieff leaves this context out of consideration in her post. Thus, all we learn is that neuroleptics have a place. Not why, when, where. And so we’re left with the impression that, well, some people just need them. No matter what the circumstances. I for one will never consent to that consensus. Nobody needs brain damage.
“I am a good mother; probably better than many who can’t admit these sorts of truths and struggles.” You sure as hell are. If you ask me, what essentially makes for a NAMI mother is exactly the inability to admit (painful) truths and struggles — to oneself as well as to others.
I’d find it relevant in other contexts than the one that is constantly looking for a chemical quick fix, if it could help us better understand trauma and what it does to people on an existential level. I don’t see, though, that studying the neurobiological consequences of abuse and neglect necessarily helps us better understand the existential consequences of trauma. Relating to the traumatized person does. I agree with Loren Mosher here, who wrote in his “Letter of Resignation from the American Psychiatric Association” (http://www.moshersoteria.com/articles/resignation-from-apa/) “that it is very difficult to have a relationship with a neurotransmitter”.
From the abstract (http://www2.kenes.com/wcap/scientific/Documents/The%20Neurobiology%20of%20Child%20Abuse.pdf): “Identification of the neurobiological substrates that are affected by adverse experiences in early life should lead to the development of more effective treatments for these disorders.” Two things here: 1. Why on earth do we need to identify “the neurobiological substrates that are affected by adverse experiences in early life” in order to be able to develop effective help for trauma survivors, unless the “help” we have in mind is of the chemical kind? 2. “Disorders”? Who said reacting to abuse the best way somebody knows equals a “disorder”? And, since we’re looking for “effective treatments”, which, I guess, means effective help for trauma survivors, exactly how effectively helpful is it to tell a trauma survivor their survival mechanisms represent a “disorder”?
Also, from the abstract of a related study by Nemeroff, “The Neurobiological Toll of Child Abuse and Neglect”, 2009 (http://tva.sagepub.com/content/10/4/389.abstract):”Although early life trauma elevates the risk of psychiatric and medical disease, not all exposed individuals demonstrate altered HPA axis physiology, suggesting that genetic variation influences the consequences of trauma exposure.” Aha, here we go: “not all exposed individuals”, read: only the genetically flawed, or neurologically unfit as Steve says above, ones.
(I hope, this comment ends up in the right place, beneath Steve’s where there’s no reply button.)
Sandy, I want to add to what Steve has said — and I couldn’t agree more to everything he’s said — that I meet people who tell me they feel sick all the time. But there’s a huge difference, although it may not be that obvious, between feeling sick with sadness, anger, confusion on the one hand, and calling the sadness, anger, confusion a symptom of some alleged illness on the other.
I can feel sick with sadness (or anger, or confusion, or hearing voices, or or or), and still know that there probably is a good reason why I have this intense experience of sadness. And knowing this, I will focus on the reason, trying to find out what it is, to understand it, and, if possible, act upon it so that it won’t cause me more sickening sadness. At the end of the day, my ability to feel sick with sadness actually has taught me something about myself and my life, helped me to make wiser decisions, and improve my life circumstances. So, basically, it turned out that my sadness was my ally in terms of my survival and wellbeing.
If I refer to my sadness as a symptom of some alleged illness on the other hand, my quest is over. My sadness will be my declared enemy, which I will fight to the bitter end. Without ever realizing that what I’m fighting against actually is myself, my own vitality and survival capacity. So, whenever I meet people who not only tell me that they feel sick with sadness (or or or), but actually symptomatic with sadness (or or or), it’s pretty clear to me that somebody (a professional, a relative, the media,… ) sadly has managed to turn the person against herself.
If we were to leave the lies behind, we would have to start by acknowledging that the DSM categories aren’t illness, disease and/or disorder categories, i.e. that they are not collections of symptoms. They are collections of certain behaviors, emotions, ways of understanding oneself and the world. The moment we judge and define these behaviors, emotions, and ways of understanding oneself and the world as ill, sick and/or disordered, we’re already telling a lie.
Medical model, or other, psychiatry, today just as 200+ years ago, is the result of our society neither being able nor willing to accept responsibility for its own dysfunctional mechanisms, why it, when a certain group of people, who saw, and still today sees, a chance to make a living by promising to remove the reactions to society’s dysfunctional mechanisms, reminding it of its responsibility, from society’s view, happily embraced, and still today embraces, this group of people and their offer to help — society, not those who challenge its grandiose self-image. Something that is the direct result of such thorough narcissism on the part of society, and that is founded on nothing but this, society’s thoroughly narcissistic need, can impossibly ever be anything but disrespecting, oppressive and abusive toward the other.
I think, we’re fooling ourselves if we believe psychiatry can be changed. Psychiatry, the institution, is synonymous with totalitarian oppression. That’s what it was designed and created to be, and that’s what it is: totalitarian oppression, silencing those who challenge society’s status quo. When we’re talking about wanting to change psychiatry into something that would really be of help to people in emotional distress, what we’re saying is that we want some sort of respecting, empathetic and kind oppression. Respecting, empathetic and kind oppression… Take a moment to think about that.
That said, I’m talking about the institution, not the individual working in it. There have always been, and there still are, individuals among the professionals, who know how to, and do help people in emotional distress. Instead of helping society get rid of these people. But unless they’re willing to compromise, to sell out, to betray themselves and the people in emotional distress they want to help, they will, sooner or later, have to leave the institution psychiatry, the institutionalized oppression, and do their work outside of it.
Faith, I couldn’t agree more. The self doesn’t stop developing. Eventually, it’s the self that brings about crisis in an attempt to have us realize that who or what we’ve been so far was built upon who or what others expected us to be, not who or what we really were. But if you’re forced to deny, or at least repress your true self, and asked to, instead, identify with a false self, constructed according to others’ expectations, the process of becoming more and more conscious of your true self automatically is interrupted and brought to a halt. That’s what trauma does to people. If it didn’t, if traumatic experiences couldn’t prevent us from integrating our true self in our consciousness, crisis wouldn’t occur.
Just to clarify and prevent misunderstandings: I don’t think anybody ever is the same after a crisis, one or the other kind, and I don’t think it’s the meaning of a crisis, one or the other kind, the meaning of life in general, that we should go “back to normal” achieve a state of unchangeability, of perfect stability in this “normality”. But what I see, more often than not, is that the emotional development of people labeled with “psychosis”/”sz” has been interrupted and brought to a halt even before these people ever had a chance to develop a sense of self, while most people labeled with other psych labels at least had a chance to develop some sort of sense of self before whatever experience/trauma put an end to that development, too.
It could be interesting to look at why so many parents seem to think that they’re inadequate as parents, leaving where unconditional love should have been a vacuum in their children that they then, loaded down with feelings of guilt, try to fill with treats of all kinds. A parent who is capable of really seeing their child, instead of seeing an object to fulfill their own unmet needs with, doesn’t need to buy his child’s “love” (if it’s bought, it ain’t real love) through treats.
I understand how it can be extremely tempting to look for the cause of “mental illness”, and all other kinds of problems that manifest discontent in the absence of love, everywhere else but inside ourselves. But if a change of diet for instance was all it took to prevent or cure “mental illness”, then how come we don’t see it actually work for more people?
One man’s pain is another man’s gain, comes to mind. At least, this is what I see in Denmark: a huge, and ever growing, “recovery industry”. And I guess, you have it in the U.S. too, probably even more literally an industry than in Denmark, where it’s mostly a public, taxpayer money financed enterprise, not that much a private one like WRAP for instance. It secures a lot of jobs in the public and mh sector, and even creates new ones, with every new “recovery project” that gets launched. And of course, since that which all of the innumerable “recovery projects” — faithfully sticking to the biopsychiatric dogma — aim at is keeping people “in recovery” for life, people never really “recover”, and what we need are ever more “recovery projects”…
The more I look at the mh system, the more clear it becomes to me that what it labels an “illness” is life itself. Or being an alive human being. — IMO, it’s no coincidence that the “better” the “treatments” psychiatry comes up with, the shorter people’s life expectancy and the more reduced their aliveness while not yet dead become. — Consequently, no one can be “recovered” unless they’re dead. Everybody still somehow, somewhat alive must be “in recovery”.
To me “recovery” means becoming aware that one never was “ill”, “diseased”, “disordered”, or anything along those lines to begin with. It means being able to let go of the labels and accept life in its entirety, the enjoyable alongside the painful. This unconditional acceptance to me marks the end of the “recovery process” and the beginning of (one’s) life.
Ronald, you probably got it more right than me: “c” for crazy, yup.
Rossa, I believe “DD” stands for Developmentally Disabled, “r” for retarded, and “c” for consumer.
BTW, thank you for your comment to Deron above. I meet these parents all the time. No matter what I suggest as a possibly viable alternative to having their children hospitalized, labelled and drugged up to the eyeballs, it’s never good enough. It may have worked for me, it may work for some, but in the particular case of their child it certainly won’t. Their child is just too sick. And no matter how many details of my own experience I provide, I clearly was misdiagnosed and never really sick at all, or I’m one of the lucky ones whose disease went into remission… Never mind the reaction when I suggest a completely different, much more hopeful view of the crisis the offspring in question is experiencing than the medical one. That’s when I’m in for getting hung, drawn and quartered.
“I have learned the value of facing my fears”, Deron writes. Earlier today I witnessed a mother of a labelled person on the internet attack somebody with lived experience for suggesting a more hopeful approach. It was like watching a young kid throwing a temper tantrum because somebody stole his candy. If you’re too afraid to face your own fears, your own inner demons, you will inevitably project them onto others. Thus, whenever your child mirrors your own fears, you will inevitably blame the child. S/he is “mentally ill”, brain diseased. Fear is not what creates love, parental or other. “Fear is the path to the dark side”, as Yoda says in Star Wars, it leads to anger, hate and suffering, for everybody involved.
mcoma, “an umbrella of social action and justice cover all disabilities”. I’ve received a couple of psych labels, and I’m a voice hearer. That doesn’t make for a disability in my world. The first in my world is an attempt at discriminating against me, the latter I regard a gift.
-Anonymous, I absolutely agree. And if anything really makes me cringe, each and every time I see it, it’s these detailed descriptions of the beliefs and reactions of those labelled “psychotic”/”schizophrenic” to illustrate just how crazy, how “thought-disordered”, and how dangerous they are. The interesting thing is that most, if not all, of the alleged craziness, the alleged “thought disorder”, and quite a bit of the perceived dangerousness tends to disappear once we get to know a little more than the usual “He had a happy childhood!” nonsense about the allegedly “thought-disordered” person’s upbringing.
Psychiatry blames those it deems “thought-disordered” not capable of understanding things metaphorically. All the while it consequently chooses to understand literally, and thus as a clear sign of sheer meaningless, “thought-disordered” craziness, beliefs in alien abduction, other people being able to read one’s mind, thoughts of having to kill one’s mother, etc., that, if understood metaphorically and in context with the person’s life story, will seem to me to make perfectly sense. Who is it actually, who’s incapable of understanding things metaphorically?
Belinda, “I would also say that the systems response to the symptoms we are displaying is also a massive problem.” Exactly. The system’s response is an entirely fear-based one. If you’re already more than terrified and at a loss of what’s going on, it certainly is of no help that you’re met with even more fear and an even more profound lack of understanding. Our society has appointed the people most afraid of, and therefor least capable of and willing to understand extreme states of consciousness to work with people experiencing these states. That’s a foolproof recipe for disaster.
“(W)hat was the purpose for inviting them?” IMO, it was clearly an attempt by certain people in the HVN to whom the acceptance of mainstream psychiatry for some reason seems to mean more than the HVN as such, to brownnose mainstream psychiatry in hopes that mainstream psychiatry might deign to throw the HVN, or the people in question, a few crumbs (of influence and power) from its table.
Marilyn, thanks for the clarification! I was in doubt, because in your first paragraph you write: “For this reason, the diagnosis of schizophrenia should not be applied lightly and not without a thorough understanding of the patient’s family and wider circumstances.” (my italics) Of course, a truly “thorough understanding of the” person’s “family and wider circumstances” will in every case lead to the conclusion “complex/post-traumatic stress”, rather than “schizophrenia” or any other “mental illness”. But I’ve seen too many professionals claim to have investigated the person’s family and wider circumstances thoroughly, and still they arrived at “schizophrenia”, or some other “mental illness”, and when you write that “schizophrenia” shouldn’t be applied lightly, it came across as meaning the label actually should be applied in certain cases, just not too lightly.
“Tragically, however, schizophrenia is sometimes confused with psychological problems like severe anxiety or depression that are understandable reactions to disturbing life situations like loneliness, isolation, and/or family issues.” I’m flabbergasted. Should this be understood as: “schizophrenia” has got nothing to do with people’s life story? And if it is, how do you support this view of so-called “schizophrenia”? How do you explain the, compared to medical “treatment”, significantly better outcomes of approaches, like Open Dialogue, that do view and treat “schizophrenia” as psycho-social problems?
Also, Joanna, these experiences can be extremely distressing, yes. But most, if not all of the distress isn’t caused by the experience itself, but by not understanding it, and consequently not knowing how to deal with it. It’s kind of a law of nature that whatever it is which we don’t understand causes us distress. Without the distress there would be no reason for us to make an effort and try to come to an understanding of whatever challenge we face. And without that effort we’d all remain at kindergarten level in terms of our personal, emotional development, and we’d never learn how to navigate life.
Joanna, me too, I’ve had the experiences that psychiatry calls “hallucinations”. So I don’t deny their existence. Which I’m strongly opposed to, both on the basis of my own lived experience and on the basis of working with others who experience among other things “hallucinations”, is psychiatry’s medicalization of these experiences. “Hallucination” is a pseudo-medical term that intends to turn a perfectly healthy and understandable reaction to life into a symptom of illness. I always encourage people to let go of this pseudo-medical, utterly alienating lingo, and to describe their experience in their very own words.
Jonah, while I appreciate your approach to Murray’s talk stressing what admittedly at first glance makes Murray look more open to a survivor’s perspective and like a moderate but nevertheless critic, IMO you’re missing a very important point.
At the core of the human rights violations committed by the mh system isn’t the question whether there should be CTO, or not, whether there should be fewer or more “hospital” beds available, whether there should be fewer or more staff employed at psych “hospitals”, whether people should have access to CBT alongside the inevitable, dopamine-reducing drugs, or not, whether we should say “schizophrenia”, or rather “psychosis”, and so on, and so on. At the core of these violations is the assumption that there would be such a thing as meaningless madness, turning people’s experiences and beliefs into “hallucinations”, “delusions”, and other “symptoms” of the meaningless madness, thus completely and totally devaluing the beliefs and experiences and stripping the person of her humanity. Murray is pretty clear about where he stands concerning this one.
Personally, I perceive Murray as far more “dangerous” than E. Fuller Torrey for instance, exactly because Murray, contrary to Torrey who at least shows his disrespect for survivors openly, manages to divert people’s attention from the fact that he does not respect people’s own definition of themselves and their experience by focusing on what we all can agree on, but what in fact also is of minor importance.
Ha! Those were exactly my thoughts at the congress. Why I left the room after the first couple of minutes. I tried to go back in about half-way through the talk, and all I heard was “dopamine, dopamine, too much dopamine”, so, turned around and left again. — I did watch the entire talk here, from the somewhat more “safe” position of sitting in front of a computer screen.
Sadly, I think, Murray has a lot of experience of being with people who have unusual thoughts. But prejudice, yes, has probably more or less always made it impossible for him to recognize his own prejudice that “delusions”, “hallucinations”, and “psychosis” as in “meaningless madness” actually does exist, for what it is, i.e. no less “delusional” than George Bush’s and Tony Blair’s beliefs about Iraq, or whatever belief he, on the basis of his own prejudice, has decided to be “delusional” in any labeled person.
To me the most disturbing about this talk is that it is given in front of an audience whose main conviction, and Murray can impossibly have been ignorant of the fact, is that whatever the experience, whatever the belief, it’s never a sign of “meaningless madness”, while Murray doesn’t touch on this obvious and decisive difference of belief with one word, but, simply by completely ignoring the different belief of his audience, adamantly insists on his own belief to be the one and only truth. In Murray’s own understanding: too much dopamine, anybody?
Licinia, where in Scandinavia? Even a professional as diplomatic as Alice Keys wouldn’t have a chance in Denmark. Also, access to therapy is limited to certain labels only, while all that others secure you is drug “treatment”, and maybe some “psycho-education” teaching you about your “illness”. Without a label nothing goes, and social workers have the nasty habit of sending just about everyone, no matter what their problem, to a psychiatrist, because, as we all know, if you’ve lost your job and/or your home, or whatever else misfortune you’ve experienced in your life that make it necessary for you to ask for benefits, the reason must be that you are “mentally ill”. And sure the psychiatrist will find that you are, and write a prescription, which the social worker then can use to tell you that if you don’t pop the pills, you can’t get benefits…
“Welfare” is a beautiful word, but as the saying goes, don’t hold everything as gold that shines like gold.
Nijinsky, March 1, 6:53, I totally agree. As long as people are stuck in their trauma and suffering, and won’t/can’t let go of it, no real growth, no true insight will happen. We don’t need trauma and suffering to grow and gain insight. All we need is to be challenged. Trauma is kind of a meta challenge: you face a challenge, and are told “You can’t!”, or even, with Laing, “Don’t!” That’s what gets people stuck in suffering.
“Both Laing and John Weir Perry contended that the suffering seemingly caused by schizophrenia is largely caused by the way it is treated by the “mind-police,” as Laing called them.”
Exactly. And it doesn’t start with how extreme states, or the people who experience them, are treated, but already with how these states are commonly perceived and defined — namely as an illness, something that shouldn’t be — in our society. Much of the fear I myself initially experienced during altered states wasn’t caused by the altered states themselves, but by the idea that is our society’s that I shouldn’t be having the experience, that it was a sign of something being profoundly wrong with me. Once I’d come to the conclusion — after reading Laing among other things — that nothing was wrong with me, which enabled me to say “yes” to the experience, even the fear wasn’t frightening me anymore. Sadly, the vast majority of people I meet in my work were indoctrinated to fear their experience — themselves — more than death. Their suffering is indeed immeasurable, and only endurable while under the constant influence of more or less heavy sedation.
“(S)hort-term or as-needed” it reads to me, not “on a regular basis”. There’s a true benzo panic going on here in Denmark, and I imagine elsewhere too. The result is that people are put on neuroleptics, preferably Seroquel, for things like sleeping problems. I have to say, I don’t know which I think is worse, a drug with a high addiction risk, or a drug that very likely may make you heavily overweight in no time, diabetic, suffering from parkinsonism, and will cause your brain to shrink quite rapidly.
Hi Dan, just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your post here. Also I was thinking, what if we, society, instead of panicking in the face of what immediately may seem incomprehensible and unpredictable — and therefor dangerous — and running away screaming “Lock them up!” (earlier literally, today in chemical prisons), could be a little more humble, not blaming our lack of understanding on the other, but taking a critical look at our own ability (or inability… ) to understand that may be the real problem, and curious. Curious of course always involves a risk. On the other hand, I believe it’s the only way toward growth for all parts involved. As long as society keeps running away from whatever immediately seems incomprehensible it’ll never come to an understanding. It will remain imprisoned by and in it’s fear of the seemingly incomprehensible as long as it seeks to imprison, not understand, the seemingly incomprehensible.
Nijinsky — February 28, 9:18 pm — “any ‘difficulty,’ even social anxiety”. That’s my point. Nobody indeed is innocent. We all run into difficulties, even social anxiety, every now and then. It’s called “life”, and it needs our attention. It needs that we learn how to navigate it in the most constructive way possible. What the difficulties we run into tell us is that we haven’t yet learnt everything, that there’s still room for improvement, learning, growth.
There are two ways for us to act on the difficulties we inevitably run into, each and every one of us: we can try to ignore them, deny them, in case the difficulties can’t be entirely ignored/denied, resort to scapegoating: “None of all this is my responsibility! It’s everybody/everything else’s (for instance, but not only; the possibilities are innumerable; the system’s, the drugs’, the withdrawal’s,… )!” Or we can embrace them as the unique opportunity for us to take responsibility and learn they are.
Unfortunately, we have created a culture of denial and scapegoating, a culture of “innocent” narcissists who, whatever the difficulties they run into on their path, are not to be held responsible. It’s the system, the pharmaceutical industry, the drugs… In other cases it’s one’s genes, one’s “mental illness” that you have no agency over (that for instance left the refrigerator door open; it’s truly amazing what “mental illness” is capable of!), in other cases again it’s the trauma that, and this is the decisive part, left you incapable of taking any responsibility for the rest of your life; the possibilities to maintain denial and scapegoating are in fact infinite. But what denial and scapegoating creates is more and more, not less, difficulties.
What are we going to do about it? Are we going to remain sitting motionless, like a helpless child — and children are the only people who are innocent — and simply extend the denial and scapegoating to whatever new difficulties we run into? And this indeed is what the institution of psychiatry was created to do: to put helpless children in grown-up bodies, the result of our culture’s denial and scapegoating, for whom the denial and scapegoating no longer works out of sight. Or are we finally going to listen to what our increasing difficulties have been trying to tell us for a long, long time, are we finally going to grow up and take responsibility?
I know that this is a messy, and very inconvenient subject, and I’m not blaming anybody. I’ve just seen, and myself, having been and sometimes still being a helpless child in a grown-up body, experienced — believe me, each time I choose this “solution” difficulties only increase, it doesn’t make them go away — too much harm done by denial and scapegoating. It’s also a very complex subject, and maybe too complex for a comment thread here. Nevertheless, I think it’s important especially in context with the subject of psych drug withdrawal.
Jonah, of course there’s never any good reason to drug anybody up on psych drugs, huge or small amount. Psych drugs, just like recreational drugs, do one thing only, they help repression and denial, neither of which has ever got humanity anywhere. So, I wholeheartedly agree that there is no good reason for these drugs to exist at all (I’m a radical in this), and I’m certainly not saying that there could be any. What I’m saying is that nobody whose life actually is all beer and skittles, who has no difficulties dealing with life ever, ends up psychiatrized.
Nijinsky, I agree that it is often the people who are labeled and drugged who really are one step ahead of those who label and drug them, since it is my firm belief that, in order to bring change about, it needs some sort of crisis, suffering. If everything is just beer and skittles, then why change anything? However, when you say that people who “were prescribed anti-depressants; just because they encountered what anyone else would in life” you ignore the fact that people are individuals and have individually varying reactions to what anyone encounters in life. Actually, yours is the “argument” professionals often employ: “Trauma?! Oh, shut up. What has happened to you has happened to millions of others, and they didn’t go insane!” People have to get up from the couch, leave the house, and go somewhere to get a prescription for the drugs. At least they have to take and swallow the pills when they’re offered to them. Nobody does this completely without any reason. Or everybody would be on these drugs by now. And I can only say that it is a very, very sad thing to witness people end up in the system again and again, just because they think there’s nothing else in their life they would have to deal with than drug withdrawal.
“Actually, people often end up medicated to the gills for no good reason.”
I haven’t met any of them yet. What I have met, though, is people with serious physical health problems being given SSRIs “preventively”, because we know that many of these people have a tendency to get depressed because of their serious health problems. And I’ve also heard how this “preventive” drugging in some cases has been the start of a long career as a psychiatric “patient”. Anyways, even in these cases, to speak of “no good reason” is a little naive, bordering to denial. The question is whether drugs are the answer, or whether things could be dealt with in a different, much less harmful way.
“Allow me to explain why tapering, and not support, should be the focus of a withdrawal program.”
Allow me to explain why I think, the focus should be, as it is in Daniel’s post, on both equally. No matter how carefully planned and carried through a taper, if the issues that underlie the problems the person was prescribed the drugs for in the first place aren’t addressed properly, there’s a good chance the person will end up in dire need for those very same drugs once more. I see it all the time, people who believe their only problem in life to be their psych drugs, and if only they can get off of them safely everything will be just beer and skittles. The bigger the surprise then, when things don’t turn out just beer and skittles. Let’s face it, shall we: people hardly ever end up labeled, and/ or drugged for no reason at all.
Layla, that comment is an analogy, not a personal attack on you. It was meant, I believe, to explain to you how people here feel about biological psychiatry, what it has done to them, and what, because of what it has done to them, a defense of it does to them. It is meant to explain to you why you see the reactions to your comments here that you do see. Here’s a friend of mine, Olga Runciman, chair of the Danish Hearing Voices Network, and soon-to-be psychologist, explaining why it actually is a very to-the-point analogy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnsCyR59Hd8
@madincanada “The reason for this is that the psychiatrist sees the person when they are at their best,…” Not true. Hardly anywhere else than locked up at a psych ward and forcibly “treated” do people feel more (and righteously) threatened, and react with more desperation defending their life (= “psychosis”). Psychiatrists are at least as, if not more, afraid of extreme emotions and reactions as anybody else. Actually, some of the people I’ve seen who were most afraid of these were psychiatrists.
“As for the person with psychosis he doesn’t remember his psychotic episodes so in retrospect he doesn’t think he was sick.” Definitely not true either. If your son doesn’t remember his “psychotic episodes”, there are two possible explanations: his “episodes”, whatever they are, aren’t “psychotic”, or there’s something not quite functioning in your communication with your son, why he may have decided that the easiest way out is to tell you that he doesn’t remember. A medical/neurological check can exclude the first. If it’s the second, start listening to your son, and try to understand. You may want to stop telling him that he’s sick, which inevitably translates into: “I don’t want to hear what you have to say”. Then maybe, he even will recover.
Amen, and thank you, from here, too, Steve.
And to Layla: it seems to me that you’ve misunderstood something. You keep telling us that we should work to improve biological psychiatry, not criticize it as such, and work to have it replaced with something completely different. But in order to wish for an improvement of biological psychiatry, instead of a wish for something completely different to replace it, we would all have to subscribe to your belief that our biology is the be-all and end-all in our lives, that everything else is secondary to it (if at all it exists), and that whatever got us psychiatrically labeled was a result of “brain processing gone awry”, i.e. meaningless madness. I for one certainly never will subscribe to that belief, as it runs entirely counter to my own experience, and as I far too many times have seen the absolutely devastating effect it has on people’s lives. And I suspect that I’m not alone in this here. In the introduction of your first comment here you give the impression that you respect Laura’s experience. If that’s really what you want to do, respect Laura’s, and so many others’, experience, you stop asking us to deny it, and buy into the “it’s all just biology” belief of yours.
Since there’s no reply button below, this is in reply to Layla’s comment, February 26, 2:33 pm: I wholeheartedly agree that our relationships, our life experience, shape the wiring and functioning of our brains. However, there’s a problem with your reasoning, and it’s about the same as with the reasoning of the researchers in the TV program about “depression” that I watched the other day. It’s not the weather or the latest fashion that is talked about in Open Dialogue’s network meetings. The aim of these network meetings is to uncover dysfunctionality in interpersonal relationships, and have an open and honest, a functional, dialogue about them. If the team succeeds to bring the dysfunctionality in the interpersonal relationships to light, and the involved individuals find words for what before didn’t have words, there’s no more need to express it in a metaphorical, “symptomatic”, way. The “patient” is “cured”.
According to your logic, whether there has been any not-spoken-of dysfunctionality/trauma, or not, in the labeled person’s life is of no further relevance. Neither is it of relevance whether you then, in therapy (or in network meetings), talk about the never before talked about trauma, or about the latest fashion. All you, as a therapist and in addition to talking about the latest fashion, have to do is ask the ”patient” to, please, rewire their brain. This is what cognitive-behavioral ”therapies” try to do. In the short term, these ”therapies” seem to work, sometimes even better than other, trauma-informed therapies that, obviously, take a lot more time. However, in the long run the cognitive-behavioral ”please rewire your brain!” therapies produce a relatively high relapse rate. Simply because what got your brain wired in a certain way in the first place never got resolved. All your ”therapy” provided you with were a few new ”coping strategies”, new ways to repress, respectively deny that which the coping strategies you had developed on your own no longer were sufficient to suppress, respectively deny, why you ended up in crisis. Those new coping strategies may save you for a while, they may work for a while. But if you think the unconscious can be tricked with a few new coping strategies, you have no idea of its power. Its power goes beyond all human imagination. No one and nothing tricks the unconscious.
If you want to live your life in fear of the unconscious, trying to trick it, running from it, calling it a ”mental illness”, or if you at some point maybe muster the courage to turn around and face yourself, your real self, well, that’s up to you. It remains a fact though that it is the people who’ve stopped running and fighting – and trying to explain away –, the people who turned around and were no longer afraid of understanding the meaning in their madness in a life-historical context, the reason for their ”brain processing gone awry”, as you call it in another comment here, the people who understand that it wasn’t any brain processing gone awry causing their crisis, but their mind’s outstanding ability to have their brain produce the for their survival necessary reactions to life, who recover fully.
Layla, in reply to your comment from today, 1:58 pm: Your comment doesn’t answer the question how you’d explain the recovery rates of different types of help for people experiencing so-called “psychosis”, “schizophrenia”.
“I am a person who suffers from mental illness; I am not the illness.” People suffer from real, somatic illness, and they are not this illness. Unfortunately, there’s a problem with this when it comes to so-called “mental illness”. In one of your comments above you state that our behavior, our emotions, our thoughts, the sum of which is who we are in the world, is shaped by our brains. If this is so, a diseased brain inevitably will shape who you are in this world as a manifestation of the supposed disease: you are the disease. And of course the staff at the hospital and elsewhere told you so; by labeling you. Nobody needs to say literally to another person, “You are your mental illness”. It’s perfectly implicit in the labels themselves that you are your label.
In addition to cannotsay2013, here’s an interesting piece about “mentally ill” animals: http://spitbristleandfury.wordpress.com/2010/01/10/a-schizophrenic-mouse/
And, Layla, you too, in a rather desperate attempt to justify psychiatry and its “treatments”, mention “schizophrenia”, psychiatry’s holy cow, “If this isn’t a brain disease, then what is?!” You’ve missed to look at the most important thing, before you jumped to the conclusion that there can’t be any other explanation for such an extreme behavior as that which psychiatry fancies to label with “psychosis”, respectively “schizophrenia”, than that it must be caused by a broken brain: the outcomes. If so-called “schizophrenia” was a brain disease, and not an extreme but still natural and in light of the person’s life story perfectly understandable reaction to her life, how do you explain that drug “treatment” produces outcomes that are by far worse than both no treatment at all, and even more worse than the outcomes of alternative approaches like Open Dialogue, which view crisis, aka “psychosis”, as a very understandable reaction to dysfunctional relationships rather than a “symptom” of a brain disease, and treat it accordingly with, well, dialogue, talk? It’s worth remembering that the proof is in the pudding. Read Anatomy of an Epidemic, as NigelB suggests, and read Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery to get to a real understanding of extreme human behavior — and the extreme life circumstances that make it a necessity for survival, not a brain disease. And if the extremes of our humanity scare you so profoundly that you need to safeguard yourself against understanding them with labels and stories about broken brains, the profession of a psychologist, i.e. a helper for those experiencing extreme reactions to an extreme life, may not be the best choice for you.
I was watching a program about “depression” on German TV yesterday. Which was puzzling me was that, one moment, they put people into scanners to observe the, according to the researchers, “faulty” brain structure and activity that, according to the same researchers, *caused* the “depression” — read: out of the blue, for no outer reason these peoples’ brains were “diseased”, not functioning in a correct way, but producing a “depressed” state of mind where there, according to the researchers, shouldn’t be one — just to, in the next moment, tell us that talking with a therapist actually could correct the brain structure and activity. So, there it is, right in front of these researchers’ eyes: proof that human relationships and our experiences in them shape the wiring and activity in our brains. But do they see the obvious? I felt like asking them, “Ok, guys, what’s it going to be? Brain wiring and functioning shaping our experience of the world, or our experience of the world shaping our brain wiring and functioning? Are we created in the image of the computer, or did we create the computer in our image?”…
Brilliant post, Laura.
To me the fact that a lot of hurt people react with a certain amount of anger and suspicion to the hurt seems to be a lousy excuse for not wanting to listen to what these people have to say. Especially when those who don’t want to listen are parents, i.e. people who more often than not tend to think of themselves as truly mature and wise people, who certainly can’t be held responsible if their offspring bears witness to their immaturity and foolishness.
What are we going to do as a society? Are we going to have an open and honest exchange about the hurt people feel, and make healing from it possible for them? Or are we going to stick to business as usual, and ask hurt people to shut up and keep their anger and suspicion to themselves — if necessary assisted by a little “medication” — because any mention of it might scare those off who don’t like to hear about responsibility? Are we going to keep up the denial, and leave people stuck with their hurt indefinitely?
Except for that I don’t see the bullying and vilifying of parents in the comments here, only an interesting exchange of strong opinions, even if there was bullying and vilifying going on, how come it’s always those labeled “insane”, i.e. immature and foolish, who are blamed of bullying and vilifying — those whose actions got them labeled — and asked to, maturely and wisely (?), shut up, while it is regarded a perfectly legitimate thing for the allegedly “sane”, i.e. mature and wise, to bully and vilify the labeled (even more) if they don’t? That’s a bit upside down, isn’t it? Where’s the sanity, the maturity and wisdom in all those parents who choose not to get involved in the MiA community, because their feelings might get hurt, that would allow them to listen and accept their responsibility?
Not a book, but a movie, based on and very accurately illustrating R.D. Laing’s research findings, is “Family Life” by Ken Loach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAL-MXP4k-k (1. part of 8) Actually a masterpiece as it almost appears to be a documentary portraying the life of a randomly chosen British family, not the carefully scripted production where every word is an equally important piece of the puzzle creating the whole it really is.
Thanks, Rossa. Now that I’ve watched the second half of the vid above, I see that, unfortunately, Paula Caplan has the same inconsistency in her argument as Jeffrey Poland. If there is such a thing as “mental illness”, then why wouldn’t there be “schizophrenia”, “bipolar disorder”, “depression”, etc. etc.? And if we can agree that there’s no scientific basis for any of those labels being objectively valid, then how can we, at the same time, claim “mental illness” to be an objectively valid concept?
Of course existential suffering is real. It’s an essential part of the human condition. It’s always been, and it will always be (the day Big pHARMa invents a pill that cures us from all existential suffering we’ll be history). But is it an illness? Is it something *wrong* with the person? Is the person in some way as a human being flawed, defective? Or is what we call “mental illness” maybe exactly what is the most *right* with the person? Is reacting to life an illness? Something wrong with us, something that should not be? Or is it maybe an ability necessary for our survival, and furthermore for growth and development?
Yes, I’ve read Laing, and it was indeed the only thing I could read, actually read from cover to cover almost in one day, while in crisis without feeling so totally and utterly *in*validated as I felt trying to read some of the mainstream-bs on, well, “mental illness”. Never mind that Laing does make use of the terms “schizophrenia” and “mental illness”. But he uses them in the framework of existential phenomenology. Not in that of some psychopathologizing sort of would-be medical science or the like. Huge difference.
IMO, if somebody feels validated by being referred to as “mentally ill”, with or without greater specification, it should have our alarm bells ring. Telling somebody they’re *wrong* isn’t validating them. It’s validating their invalidity. The victim inside may feel good. The survivor will feel assaulted, demeaned, ridiculed.
I wonder, whether Paula Caplan — or Jeffrey Poland for that sake — ever have had the chance to hear a survivor like Jacqui Dillon speak. If not, I highly recommend it.
Probably the stress level you’re experiencing has moved a little above “normal” and into the range of post-traumatic stress, when it can buy you a psych label. At least, that’s the case for everybody I know who’d received a psych label.
There’s also good research out there that shows that inflammation, in the brain or elsewhere, is due to stress.
I’ve just read Jeffrey Poland’s chapter “Bias and Schizophrenia”. Absolutely brilliant. Except for one thing: “…critics are not denying that there is such a thing as severe and disabling mental illness;…” Not true, some are. And while people regularly get angry with me because I tell them that *something* has got them labeled and drugged up, and, in case, also committed, that it didn’t happen for no reason at all, I’d say calling this *something* for “mental illness”, “severe and disabling” on top of that, is no less harmful, demeaning and disempowering, than calling it “schizophrenia”, with “schizophrenia” being just one of several possible synonyms for “severe and disabling mental illness”, and the term “severe and disabling mental illness” doing exactly the same in regard to the biases listed by Poland in his otherwise excellent piece, as which the term “schizophrenia” does. So, while Poland successfully deconstructs “schizophrenia”, he fails to realize that if at the same time he wants to maintain a belief in “severe and disabling mental illness” as a valid concept, he renders his previous deconstruction virtually null and void.
Chrys, I couldn’t agree more! And about 3 years ago I’ve had a short exchange with Peter Stastny on the matter, http://www.miwatch.org/2009/10/upcoming_conference_focuses_on.html . However, today, after 2 years of working with people who’ve been (additionally) severely victimized, infantilized, traumatized, and brainwashed by the system, apart from also being physically/neurologically more or less severely damaged by long-term drug use, I would also agree with Peter Stastny that the “window of opportunity” unfortunately often is a lot more closed for people who’ve been in the system for years, or even decades, compared to the window of opportunity of people, who experience their first “break”. It needs a somewhat different, much more complex, approach, a lot more support put in place, and a rather profound knowledge about psych drugs and withdrawal than what for instance the original Soteria House can provide to help these people. Nevertheless, I still think, access to the “first break”/”young people” approach shouldn’t be restricted to people who are actually experiencing a first “break”, and are “young”. In my own case for instance, not even the 24/7 intensive Soteria House approach was required. To me it makes a lot more sense to distinguish between people who are hooked on the drugs (and would need a sophisticated withdrawal program), and have swallowed the system’s messages hook, line and sinker, and those who are/have not. No matter how many “breaks” they’ve had in the past, or what their age. It isn’t necessarily one’s age or the number of “breaks” which determine how open the window of opportunity is. In spite of several “breaks” in the past, and 42 years of age (certainly not “young” anymore), mine was wide open, while I would have been turned away (and drugged up by the traditional system) by any kind of help that used “first break” and “young” as its access criteria. Luckily my therapist didn’t use these criteria, but used “motivation” as hers.
In reply to mjk: “2. behaviour that appears to be motivated by contradictory or conflicting principles”. It “appears”. To any unengaged observer, like an mh professional for instance. It may also “appear” so to a parent whose need to himself appear as the perfect parent isn’t met by a child who reacts to the parent reflecting the parent’s imperfection. A psychiatric “symptom” is a reaction to life that is taken out of its context with life. Thus the cognitive dissonance doesn’t happen in the person who’s labeled with “mental illness” on the grounds of psychiatric “symptoms”, but in those who label.
Rossa, it’s not your comments I’m referring to, mentioning that I see some denial around the comment section here. I have to run now, but I think it’s an interesting discussion. You make some important points, and will get back to them later.
Rossa, I agree that it’s counterproductive to demonize, vilify, blame, and, yes, a lot of the reactions I’ve seen to Jani’s parents have been demonizing, vilifying and blaming them. But I don’t see that happening here on MiA. All I see is facts being quoted that are undeniable, and which most of Michael Schofield himself has admitted to openly. Not being allowed to talk about these facts is asking people to engage in the same denial that Jani’s parents are engaging in (and denial, in fact, is something that I do see in a few comments here). And denial is just as counterproductive as demonizing, vilifying and blaming.
Somebody needs to hold these people responsible, or they will remain kids forever, and the catastrophe will take its — catastrophic — course. It’s not about blaming, or vilifying, or anything along those lines. And it’s not even about the Schofields alone. It’s about humanity on the whole.
Rossa, for once I have to disagree. Nobody vilifies Michael Schofield. Nobody has to since he’s doing an excellent job at it all by himself. I agree that both parents are in desperate need of help, no less than their kids are. But they’ve been offered help, many times, also from the Intervoice community. So far, they’ve turned every offer down immediately, except for the actually least helpful offer of them all coming from bio-psychiatry. We all make mistakes, yes. We need to make mistakes, or we wouldn’t learn a thing, ever. But when the reaction of others to our own actions as unmistakably show us that our actions were a mistake as Jani’s reaction to her parents shows them that their actions were (and are) a mistake, we have an obligation to face this, and take responsibility for our mistakes. Especially when others depend on us like children depend on their parents. It’s not perfection that makes us grown-up people fit to be parents. It’s taking responsibility for our imperfection that does. I don’t see much taking responsibility for anything looking at Jani’s parents. All I see is that they stop at nothing to avoid responsibility. That’s what kids do, who haven’t yet learned to take responsibility: “It wasn’t me throwing that stone that smashed the window! It were the fairies!” or, in this case, it was “mental illness”!… And kids having kids is the safest recipe for catastrophe.
It’s a mystery to me how people don’t seem to notice the — in my perception — extreme dissonance between a life story like Hallgrímur’s on the one hand, and psych labels on the other.
mjk, you were misunderstood by me. Sorry! I see what you mean.
mjk, I think, before we have the right to single out an individual, never mention a child, point fingers at them, label them “defective”, genetically or other, and feed them neuro-toxic substances, we ought to have proof, valid scientific proof, that they really are defective, that this “schizophrenia” thing actually exists the way psychiatry imagines it to exist, and also that the neuro-toxic substances in fact do any good to them. Don’t you?
Sinead, you’re jumping to conclusions and making a lot of assumptions about people. Just because Rossa, mjk below, and I have an interest to know why things like the shooting happen, an interest that goes beyond the usual suspects like “mental illness”, and think the question deserves some more thorough investigation, that doesn’t mean we don’t have compassion with the victims. We’re not asking the question because we want to find an excuse for what Adam Lanza did. We’re asking because we don’t want more children, more people, to be shot. If we wanted an excuse, “monster” or “mental illness” would serve the purpose perfectly, and we’d settle for it.
To answer your questions: what I would say to Adam Lanza in front of his victims is “Why?”, and, of course, witnessing any kind of violence, I do whatever possible to stop it.
Sinead, it sure is most politically correct to damn the murderer, call him/her/them (a) monster(s), and to never ask, “Why?” while prepared to face the honest answer, “Because of you.” I know having compassion only for the victim(s) is the most politically correct to do. I’m not here to be politically correct. Actually, I don’t see it as my “call” in life to be politically correct. I see it as my “call” in life to be honest. And to be honest, I don’t see how anybody can have true compassion for a victim, as long as they deny one single perpetrator the same compassion. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y-Ik3HB6fQ
mjk, did you ever reach to read Michael Schofield’s, Jani’s father’s, blog before he deleted the posts where he described how both he and his wife beat up Jani, and starved her as an infant? You may say, well, they did this to her because she was born “different”, difficult, and they were powerless, couldn’t deal with her, and didn’t know what else to do. She, an infant, was driving them crazy, and made them, allegedly grown-up people, do this to her: “You made me do this to you.” The abusers “excuse” par excellence. And indeed, it’s how Michael Schofield back then tried to “excuse” his and his wife’s abuse of Jani. But when we’re talking an infant on the one hand, and two allegedly grown-up, allegedly mature enough to have kids of their own people on the other, there is no excuse.
Both parents identify as “mentally ill”, “depression” and “bipolar”. I.e. both parents identify as everything else but grown-up and mature enough to have kids of their own people. They should never have had any. Not as long as they kept trying to excuse their profoundly immature and irresponsible behavior with “mental illness”, their own, and their daughter’s.
Correction: I hear that Nancy Lanza didn’t work as a teacher at Sandy Hook, but apparently only volunteered there. However, it doesn’t change anything about the point I’m trying to make in my above comment.
Another story, this time not personal, but taken from Sabine Bode’s book “Kriegsenkel” (as far as I know the book is not translated into English, the title means “Grandchildren of War”), a story about 9/11: a man, a chef who’d been working at WTC, went to one of the crisis centers that were set up following 9/11 to get help with sorting out things in regard to him having lost his job. He took along his daughter, a preschooler. While her father got counseling, she stayed at the center’s “Kids Corner” where she immediately started to paint a picture of buildings in red, yellow and black coloring. Asked about the picture she explained it was the WTC burning and collapsing. Her father had worked there, and he’d narrowly escaped being killed, and that he’d suffered asphyxiation. The thing is, her father hadn’t even been near WTC on 9/11. He should have been, but he’d changed shift with a colleague, who’d died. Her father suffered from massive feelings of guilt, nightmares, etc., but of course he hadn’t talked to his preschool daughter about any of it. He didn’t need to, one might say, his daughter had picked up the signals anyway. Unconsciously. Kids do. This girl got a chance to talk about it, sort things out, understand. Lots and lots of kids never get that chance. If it’s 9/11, war, things like Newtown, domestic violence,… if it’s “just” growing up with traumatized parents who haven’t dealt with their trauma and therefor are acting it out in ever so subtle ways, it doesn’t matter. It’ll leave the kid insecure and fearful. And undealt-with insecurity and fear are the breeding ground for aggression.
To me, two things are interesting in regard to Adam Lanza. One is the account of the hair stylist, who’d noticed that he didn’t ever react to anything or anyone but his mother (‘s commands). The other is that his mother was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Two observations/facts that might lead to some kind of understanding, if we took a closer look at them. What happened behind closed doors at the Lanza’s home, in the relationship between him and his mother? Unfortunately, we, society, prefer to shout “evil!” or “mentally ill!”, which both equally efficiently block for any further attempts to understand, the final explanations for someone’s behavior they pretend to be. Understanding how we relate to each other, how our relations to each other, our experiences in these relations, shape our reactions, ourselves, it’s of no importance to us it seems. All which is of importance in our society is that we can say, “It’s not my responsibility! It’s got nothing whatsoever to do with me! It’s all your/his/her/their fault!”
The really interesting thing about this is that a philosophy that presupposes that we all are equally responsible, that “no one is an island”, and that leaves no room for pointing fingers at individuals, scapegoating them, is at the root of the by far most successful approach to crisis in the western world: Open Dialogue. Thought provoking, isn’t it?