Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Forecasting the Future

As far as yesterday's blog went, I think I am going to try thinking of myself as not being schizophrenic for a while, and seeing how the change of attitude affects my life. I realise that when the diagnosis was made the doctors thought there was a dead cert of them being right - I had all the symptoms, I broke down on more than one occasion, I must have fitted the model that they base their diagnoses on.

But the trouble with the diagnosis is that it is one that is meant to last for life. I was told that I had an incurable illness in a pronounced form and that I was going to get worse over the years - effectively, that, 'There is no hope for you lady, so you might as well give up now'. And I did give up, for a number of years. It is a bit like the old witch doctor routine. Witch doctors scared people to death; they got into the pysche of their victims and made them believe they were going to die, and so they obligingly did.

Well, it is finally beginning to occur to me that no one can forecast the future. I am not living the life those doctors forecast for me - thank God. And I really should stop myself thinking that I come under the umbrella term that they tried to tar me with - although I am scared to stand out against it, because that would be termed non-compliance and I could be said therefore to have no insight into my condition, and so on, culminating in the worst-case scenario that I end up sectioned - I know, I have an over-active imagination, but I also have a point).

I do have many failings as a human being. I often wish I was not so nervous. I wish I could communicate more effectively in spoken conversation. I get very stressed at times. I have many other shortcomings. However, by and large these things are improving as I get older - as is to be expected.

In my case, the events of my childhood were, I believe, the main cause of my trauma. Now I am older, calmer and more in control of my life. Also, now I am a parent myself and so I have gained some understanding of why things might have been so difficult for my parents in the light of their own shortcomings. I am on the path to forgiveness of the wrongs that were done to me when I was young, and during that journey some of my own problems are becoming fixed. There are many sources of help out there, once you start looking - Al Anon, for example have a wonderful spiritual and non-judgemental outlook on how to salve the wounds caused by our upbringings.

I feel that I am healing gradually, but I am aware that just as doctors cannot predict the future, neither can I. It is perfectly possible that if life were to place another trauma in my path, I might be unable to cope and could retreat into psychosis again. I do not wish to become complacent. But neither do I want to build a wall in the path of any progress I might make - to say to myself - you can never be completely well. That would be stupid - and yet that is exactly what I have been doing for years, by agreeing that I am a schizophrenic.

In some ways mental health treatment has not moved forward for centuries. We have gone from a complete lack of understanding, and completely inhumane treatment - lobotomies for instance, to the position we are in now, where individuals are still denied recovery, but by more insidious means.

The thing I find most shocking - and most undercover - is the chemical sterilisation of women. Most people today are horrified to learn that not too long ago, in this country, mentally ill women were subject to forcible sterilisation - as were single mothers, and other 'social deviants'. However, this horror is still alive today - although under cover. Many years ago, when I expressly asked my 'team' of psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, mental health nurses and so on, whether my medication would stop me conceiving, I was categorically told that it would not.

I was engaged to be married. I was well, but compliant with the fact that I had been told that I should stay on a low dose of medication, for prophylactic purposes -ie to prevent the likelihood of my becoming ill again. I accepted that this medication was safe, and had very few side effects, because that is what I was told by the doctors - who I thought were trustworthy, honourable people with my best interests at heart.

I later found out that the drugs I was on - like many psychiatric drugs - had caused levels of a particular hormone, prolactin, to be 'sky high' as the GP termed it, in my system, and that the presence of this hormone in this concentration definitely prevented ovulation. I refuse to believe that the 'Team' were ignorant on this matter - to me it is obvious that they have full knowledge of the effects of these medications, over and above anything a layman could be expected to know or discover. I only found out by pure luck, but the information was in the public domain. I happened to be reading a health and fitness magazine and a tiny paragraph mentioned that some medications can prevent conception, and I picked up on the possibility that mine was one of those drugs, then went to my GP to check. He looked at me askance when I mentioned that I thought my prolactin levels might be high 'Your what?', but he did fill out the forms to send me to the hospital for a hormone profile test.

I still remember the look on his face when I went to see him to get the results of those blood tests, and he told me, 'Your prolactin levels are sky high'. It was a look of something almost approaching respect. And from there he referred me to see an endocrinologist, and under her supervision I was weaned off the drugs. It strikes me now that had I not read that magazine article, my life now would be hardly recognisable - and four of the most wonderful, marvellous people on this planet would not exist.

So, in my opinion; in my experience, sterilisation of mentally ill women still occurs, but by underhand means. This is a real tragedy, because many of the women I met over the years in hospital and in so-called 'rehabilitation centres' longed to have children, and would have made wonderful mothers. I believe their illness was in some cases caused, in others compounded, by their childlessness.

As a mother myself, and someone who so nearly might not have been, I recognise how important, how awfully important, this issue is. I do not believe psychiatrists would willingly inflict such misery on women if they recognised them as people - instead of as patients, dangerous ones who must be controlled.


  1. There's definitely something to be said for separating your illness from yourself. You are not your illness and it doesn't define you. I also think that a second opinion might be beneficial. Many people can have psychotic breaks and not be schizophrenic. That fact that you've been well for many years doesn't follow the general path of the illness.

    And, if all else fails, sod what everyone else thinks :) x

  2. Yes, I think I have let the illness take over my life for far too long, even though now it may be gone. Feel like I have wasted far too much time on it - on the other hand, it has given me some valuable insights. I suppose only time will tell as far as the diagnosis goes...for now I am going to keep it well at the back of my mind, as far as possible.