Tuesday, 28 June 2011

What is Schizophrenia?

Hi again
I slept, and feel fine again today. Went to an Alexander technique lesson (session?) this morning and that was helpful. It is only my second lesson, but so far I am pleased - it seems to be very good at rooting one in the present. Which is what I need.
I took the dog for a walk afterwards, and realised that the present is actually pretty good right now. Warm weather, freedom to roam in a green field, pleasant passers-by... Now I've come back to the computer to get bogged down in all this again. Also, uplifted by it - it does help to write and it is something that I would, and do, recommend to absolutely everybody. Just don't feel you have to do it in view of the world.
The last few days I have been panicking about the content of this blog - I can't go back and edit posts for some reason, and I have been a bit indiscreet on occasions. I was just driving along (on my way back from the lesson) thinking about it and worrying. Then it occurred to me that I haven't got time to read all the back posts anyway, even if I could edit them. So it is just another thing to move on from. And learn from.
Also, all this should help me to focus on the purpose of this blog - to help other sufferers of mental illness, or people who have recovered but still don't feel able to see themselves as the same as everybody else. People who have had mental health problems, and those who haven't (or not yet) should recognise that we all get tangled up in our own thoughts, our own minds at times. Some people just go through this more than others.
And things that have happened to us in the past should not define our futures. Which brings me to the original reason for this post.
A lot more people are reading this blog at the moment, some of them are friends or family. A simple search on the net now brings you straight here. And some of them will be wondering, 'What is Schizophrenia?'
In fact, I popped in to see a friend yesterday. I had sent her an email (along with most other people in my contact list) to tell her about the book and to ask not to judge or even think anything, if possible, until or unless they read it. I was particularly nervous about her reaction because she is a School Mum.
She didn't say anything about it when I saw her, until I asked 'Have you read my e-mail?'
Then she politely said, 'Oh yes. So, did you have schizophrenia then? Do you still have it?'
'Well, they said I'd never recover' I told her, and then when she didn't laugh, 'But I don't think I'm mad all the time' and then of course she did laugh.
It is just such a huge leap for people to make in their minds, and I am sorry that I have had to do this. I did think it through for a long time.
Now I need to explain my view on the diagnosis. You could find this out by reading all the back posts - particularly the early ones on here. But it would take a while to get the full picture. SO for those who know me, and those who don't, I will try to explain what I now think about schizophrenia.
I don't know whether I had schizophrenia. I don't know whether anyone has it. I don't know whether I still have it. I was seriously mentally ill on three occasions and I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. But - that diagnosis was based on observation of my behaviour, while I was in a mental hospital. No doubt about it, I was seriously deranged. I had psychosis (this means that I had very disturbed thoughts). My behaviour was bizarre.
But - again - I have never hurt anybody in my life. I am not a violent person. I have never deliberately even hurt anybody's feelings. And most people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia are the same - they are much more frightened than frightening. Which is why so many of them commit suicide. Luckily for me, I have never been suicidal. Just very nutty.
Between my breakdowns I have had long periods of time when I have been well. I passed a Law degree, I had relationships, I lived alone or with other people. Sometimes I was happy. But I was always very very nervous, almost all of the time. I worried, I panicked. I found it very hard to relax.
This is all in the book, by the way.
What I am trying to get at ( and I am writing in short paragraphs because my blog keeps bunching up - when I publish it the spaces between the paragraphs disappear - really annoying) is that I don't think the term 'Schizophrenia' should exist. I think it gets between the person and the treatment, the person and the world. Once I was told I was SCHIZOPHRENIC my life changed. That diagnosis is not fair - it is adding an extra burden.
I use the word a lot in this blog, I use it in my book. That is because it gets people's attention, for all the wrong reasons.
If you look up schizophrenia on the Net, you will usually find an explanation of a chemical imbalance in the brain. A disease of the mind, that sort of thing. It is the given scientific explanation. But - and I am not making this up - if you dig a little deeper you will find that there is no scientific reasoning behind that at all. Look at Rossa Forbes' blog 'Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia' and it will lead you to others.
Psychiatry is not a science. Psychiatrists treat people who are mentally ill with medication. I do not object to that medication per se - I don't know enough about it. (I do object to the forced administration of it, but that is something to read about in the book. I am running out of time to write this blog post and I want to try to express myself properly here).
I would never tell or advise or suggest to anyone to stop taking any sort of medication, for anything. Or take any action at all without consulting doctors, family, friends, everyone possible. But - nor would I advise anyone that they should take psychiatric drugs for ever, to prevent themselves becoming ill in the future. This is what mental health professionals said to me. I was also told that my 'prognosis' was very bad, that I would get worse as I got older. This was said in unequivocal terms. For several years after this my life was in limbo - I had no hope for the future.
Now, obviously, I have proved them wrong. I take no drugs at all now, I have a family and a future. But they nearly took that away - and I believed their prediction for so long that I wasted years of my life not even trying to get better.
It is only through writing down my thoughts in this blog that I came to the conclusion that - hey, if they were wrong about my future, perhaps they were wrong about the diagnosis too? They couldn't look into my brain and see what I was thinking. They couldn't forecast how I would cope over the coming years. They didn't know me at all really - they only knew how I was when I was floridly ill (which was obviously very alarming). But was it fair to write me off?
And I worry about other people in the system now, about their futures. I see people who I was in hospital with who are still obviously unwell and I feel terribly guilty that I haven't tried to help them more. They never found the confidence to believe in themselves again.
The process of recuperation - convalesence - after a serious mental illness is a long one. Psychosis is a serious shock to the system. But the starting point should always be - 'You will get better'. So that is my purpose with the book and with this blog - to do away with the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
I may have damaged some of my personal relationships in the process of doing all this. I hope not. But I realise how lucky I have been - to meet Paul, to have the kids, to have so many good friends and family around me, and to have started to see myself as a person again - a damaged person, but not a bad one. One who has been given the chance to be happy. And I want others to have the same chance.
Let me say it again - please don't anyone stop taking any medication because of me. Sometimes people need help to get them through difficult times. I leave that to the medics - traditional and alternative healers, whatever. It is not my field.
But - you can, and you will, get better. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes courage and determination and luck and all the help you can find, wherever you can find it. But there is hope for the future. Louise. x.

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