The Issue of Medication for Psychosis

The issue of whether to take medication or not can be a difficult one. While medication may work well for some, it may do little for others. This syncs with the fact that experiences associated with psychosis are vast and varied. People who suffer are very diverse, and causation remains nebulous.

I believe that causation for each person is a constellation of a series of modalities. I have witnessed how comparing causation theories becomes the spice of life in a psychosis support group. I find support groups for people who experience what is labeled as psychosis to be full of cultural learning that can result in powerful growth and wisdom.

As someone whose been in recovery for fifteen years, I have also witnessed the issue of medication to be politically divisive amongst message receivers or people who experience psychosis. Personally, I am starting to see it more as an element of cultural diversity in which differences can make the support groups I run vibrant and spectacular.

I believe I have a moderate view on this topic, which means it can be hard not to feel under attack in differing circles. My hope in this article is to provide perspectives to help people make their own decision about medication and work together regardless of their views and life experience.

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Learning Disabilities and Psychosis

Never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long

I never heard the melody until I needed the song . . .

. . . I never I spoke “I love you” till I cursed you in vain

Never felt my heart strings until I nearly went insane

                                                           

–Tom Waites, San Diego Serenade

 

It is funny how sometimes one cannot really see themselves until they get a glimpse of a harsh paradoxical reality. Perhaps doing so gives one that alternate perspective that is so necessary to really see oneself and gain wisdom. I think that’s what Tom Waites is getting at in the excerpts of his song I posted above. That is why the ability to relate to others is such a powerful teacher and healer that is so needed in a therapeutic endeavor. Other people’s struggles help us stop and see ourselves better. Even if it is painful, growth is likely.

And, just as the song goes, I never really saw myself as a learning-disabled person until I just recently had the opportunity to sit with an individual while she was receiving a mid-life diagnosis. It was a diagnosis that I thought might be helpful. Little did I know that before this sitting, I rarely considered the full effect of how a learning disorder affects me as a writer, therapist and mental health consumer.

 

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Writing for Mental Health: Six Basic Considerations

I like to think that I could recommend writing to some other people who have been subjected to a diagnostic labeling process that diminishes their hopes and potential. Indeed as emotional tension pulses through my back and appendages, I have found few other outlets that are there for me like the mixing and mastering letters.

Sure, I have been sent to a shrink for being who I am. Sure, I have been buried in institutions at different points of my life. Indeed life on that trajectory has filled me with loss and lack. But when I’ve found myself incarcerated immobile, I’ve been blessed to find value in defining it. Initially as a teen, I found  appreciating expressive words through music got me started. The more I switched from song to verse to story, I found the problem-solving that takes place in the editing process satisfying. Indeed for me there are few other outlets that rival writing in terms of learning about life and wellness.

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When the Public Studies Mass Murder

January 7, 2017: I sit stunned in the wake of the tragedy of yesterday’s Fort Lauderdale shooting. As statements appear in the press that insinuate that these evil acts need to be avenged, I grieve for the senseless loss of life.  I grieve and I also wonder if anyone cares to understand the dilemmas that people like Esteban Santiago-Ruiz face. Having just endured another holiday season as a mad person, I am reminded of the importance of giving social scapegoats a space to celebrate their otherness. As a licensed psychotherapist, I create safe places where the untold story can be heard. I know that a state of victimhood can be transformed to a celebration. I see it happen every day. It helps me exponentially.

Having caught a fever, I spent Christmas day in bed in victim mode, reflecting on the way I feel scapegoated. Instead of working through the pain like usual, I lay incapacitated, overcome. I thought of my project design that could bring specialized groups into the county service system. Turns out eighteen months of pro bono work only further smeared my reputation. I not only am left unnoticed, I know there are rumors based on past politics and current ones that I can do nothing about. I reflected how, when I recently shared these ideas in a survivor work group, I only felt further marginalized. This hurt, as did the fact that my award winning memoir isn’t selling.

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Multi-Culturism in the Hacienda of Mental Health

Back when I was just a yuppie, I learned a few points of wisdom about working through stigma. I needed mentors to help teach me how wrong stigma is. Now,  I want to pay forward some of  what I learned outside the class room  to some mental health academics and administrators who may not have gotten the same lesson.

I was learning to chop cheese steaks at a Korean owned deli and instantly enamored with this mentor on the grill, Mister Ray Gee. The deli was located just across the river from downtown Philadelphia, in the North Camden ghetto.  This Mister Ray and I were just meeting. We were both the same skin-and-bones size, our last names went together in rhyme, and any middle aged man who didn’t have a gut was an inspiration to me.

Mister Ray took one look at me and exclaimed in one breath, “Wow you are an Asshole! But don’t worry, it’s not your fault!  You were just raised that way!”

Continue reading “Multi-Culturism in the Hacienda of Mental Health”

Recreating Myself within a Changing Economy

Seventy years ago my family closed a lumber company in upstate New York. A series of small towns had built up primarily around the business and had to be abandoned and redefined. As is often the case, times change the economy and people have to find new ways to survive.

Growing up, I never considered that the closure of the company had much of an effect on my family.  Perhaps as the first born in the second generation since the closing, I just didn’t notice that I carried an unspoken weight. For years I have seen my father at times thanklessly function as the steward of swaths of land and vacation homes up in a small town within the region. This was not a footprint that I in any way would end up following.

Usually one does not think of a child born with such immense privilege as ending up homeless and in a state mental hospital. At some points in my journey I have been defined by long lists of psychiatric diagnosis. I prefer to consider myself as having chosen to find a new way to survive based on a changing economy.

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Honoring traditions that helped me escape:

My revolt against my father’s and my family’s legacy was not well understood without lists of psychiatric labels. Now, as I am preparing to honor my father in a seventy-fifth birthday reunion in the belly of the beast from which I fled, I have a better sense of how I let the traditions of my family down.

The reunion is to happen in a small company town in upstate New York that was founded a century ago. The town provided timber for city-folk and funded a family structure that I have chosen to leave. Those profits are perhaps dwindling due to close of the family business in the fifties. As far as I know, the just property taxes that exist for swaths of vacation property that remain kill any kind of profit. My father has honorably and at times thanklessly managed the whole deal for us all.

The gifts that I was given: Continue reading “Honoring traditions that helped me escape:”

Viewing Myself through the Healing Voices Documentary

The Healing Voices documentary is a bold collaborative effort to recreate the public perception of people who hear voices or experience altered states. At a private viewing, amid a room of like-minded individuals there is cause for all of us to rejoice. We all sit engaged, excited, and proud as concepts and materials that we all work to share with others on a daily basis surround us booming through the theater. There is laughter, an occasion whoop or coyote cay-cay-cay. The past fifteen years of my recovery and efforts to share my developing health to others flash before my eyes.

The movie tracks three individuals: 1) a well-known leader in the movement and co-producer, Oryx; 2) a peer support leader from a small town setting who is a Mom, Jen; and 3) a youthful and creative outsider from a setting that never becomes clear to me, Dan. As this develops, I start to see three levels of exploration honored.

First, Oryx represents the movement leadership and has connection to all the expert philosophers who are interviewed to back up an alternate way to manage and treat these wide collection of experiences. Robert Whitaker, Bruce Levine, Will Hall, Marcus Romme are interviewed. A clear vision of the indubitable damage that the illness medical model has done, the senseless demand that society imposes that all signs of illness are suppressed and manner in which the western world has over emphasized psychiatric medications. Oryx details his journey with altered states at a safe distance and how it motivated him to found the Freedom Center with Will Hall. There are European cameos of people from the hearing voices movement who I recognize like Rufus May, Jacki Dillion and Rachael Waddington.  Continue reading “Viewing Myself through the Healing Voices Documentary”

Issues that Divide the Mad Community

As a psychotherapist who works with other Mad individuals in an L.A. county facility, it seems to me that the wider Mad community is not always aware of the diversity that exists within. While I am grateful for every person who has survived in spite of the limits of therapeutic environments available to many, rich and poor; survivors seem to promote what has worked for them without consideration for what other Mad individuals are dealing with. Many of us who have survived may fail to see the privileges that we have that have enabled ourselves not to get sucked into the institutions. We may think our way of making it is the only way. We may take for granted what we have used to survive. And we may not always learn the diversity lessons that we need in order to be there for our brethren.

Historically we are divided by DSM labels and social inequality and we may easily reinforce those divisions without knowing it.  Some of us may consider ourselves members of a spiritual emergence narrative rather than a schizophrenic episode; many even argue that these are separate conditions requiring very different treatment. Others in recovery profess safety in a functioning bipolar community rather than among individuals who are genetically impaired with schizophrenia eugenics.  Some want to divide up into individuals who hear voices verses those who are just delusional. And then there are the individuals who evade intrusion by coding up their words. And of course differences in heritage, class, gender and relation to historical trauma are likewise things that many survivors may not completely acknowledge. And still further, those who are wrapped up in the current debate in the Mad community over the use of medication run the risk of dividing us further without acknowledging the diversity of peoples experience and trauma.

The claim that I really object to is: this works for me, therefore it must be what everyone else needs.

Demands for Inclusion in the Movement: Continue reading “Issues that Divide the Mad Community”