Friday, 27 January 2012

Schizophrenia and Reading


I think I am going to stop saying hello at the top of every post, after this one.  It is a given, isn't it?

Talking of Givens, I remember I was reading the Human Givens Approach book a while ago - in fact, I bought two of them.  I stalled on the first book though, and haven't gone back it since.  The Human Givens thing was recommended to me by a friend, who at the time was working as an occupational health nurse with the police force, and that was how she had learned about it.  At first, I loved the book - the certainty with which the authors stated that anybody could recover from mental distress attracted me immensely.  I like people who agree with me...

But it was when I reached a chapter about autism that I turned away from the book.  It was incredibly unscientific and, I felt, insulting.  One of the authors had an autistic sibling and, based on his observations - nothing more - wrote a whole chapter on the physical movements of an autistic person and how, in his view, this meant that autistic people were more related to fish (in evolutionary terms) than the rest of us.  It was hyopthetical nonsense, and it bothered me that I had wasted my time on the book this far and believed it to have some substance.

However, I intend to have another look at Human Givens.  It did have some things of value - a tolerant attitude towards mental health problems and a positive message that they can be fixed.

I have just been looking at the reviews of Mark Vonnegut's latest book 'Just like somebody without mental health problems, only more so'.  I apologise if I have got this title wrong, and also for not looking up the names of the Human Givens authors.  Toddler is watching TV as I write, and I know that is wrong, so I am trying to rush the post so that I can go and play with him properly.  Anyway, Vonnegut wrote an earlier book, the Eden Express, about his struggles with schizophrenia, and his recovery.  That was written in the Seventies, and this new book updates his experiences.  It sounds fascinating.

I treated myself to a Kindle yesterday!  I ordered it online, and therefore have to wait a few days for it to arrive, but I already have a list of books that I want to download onto it.  I can see some good reading stretching out in the weeks ahead.

I have been really pleased to find the Amazon author forums and the Kindle User one full of people who love to read and to share their opinions of the books they have read.  I am looking forward to getting more involved in that too, although I am aware that I need to watch the amount of time that the Internet sucks up.  I have not written much at all recently - although I have calmed down and stopped rushing around (quite embarrassed about the road rage thing in retrospect) I am spending too much time trying to 'market' my book.  I have come to the conclusion that this is pretty much useless - that the free promotion days are the best way to boost sales, and whether or not people pay for the book is not as important as whether they enjoy it and whether it helps other people sufferering with mental health problems. 

Also if my memoir is well enough written - which I sometimes now dare to hope that it might be - then word should get out eventually.   And if it is not well enough written then it is even more important that I allocate more time to writing the next one.

Will sign off now, and go and play with my beautiful little boy.  He just came and stuck loads of stickers all over me, 'For being the bestest Mummy in the whole world!'  Better go and make some effort to live up to that.

Louise x


  1. I just finished reading your book and enjoyed it very much. I have also read one of the Human Givens books: "Dreaming Reality". I think that the authors are putting the finger on something important when they compare psychosis to REM sleep as well as the state of hypnosis. My son certainly looked stuck in a dream-state when he was wandering around in the grip of psychosis or may be as if a stage hypnotist had hypnotised him. I wished I had known how to click my fingers to get him out of this strange state. He had been badly sleep deprived before becoming psychotic.

  2. Hi

    I am so glad you enjoyed my book. I have been encouraged by some really positive reviews and comments on the Amazon authors' forum recently - in fact my ego may be in danger of becoming over-inflated!

    As for the Human Givens ideas; yes, I think that psychosis is indeed akin to a dream-state or a hypnotic condition. I was sleep deprived too before I became ill, on each occasion. What I do know is that psychosis is not a constant state, as it seems to the observer. I had periods of awareness - I woke up lucid in hospital (a psychiatrist told me that I had been asleep for three days after the jab I was given to knock me out) and pretty soon descended into madness again.

    During the next months my state of mind was unhinged, but I was never psychotic all of the time. Sometimes I went 'mad' again within the hospital almost deliberately because I couldn't cope with the reality of where I was and why while I was temporarily sane. (Maybe psychosis is a little like lucid dreaming - something that used to happen to me a lot, but doesn't much now; I am too tired by the time I get to bed!)

    These flashes of ordinary consciousness, even when the patient is in the grip of psychosis, show that there is great potential for recovery - see John Read's 'Making Sense of Madness'.

    Incidentally, I recently came across quite a new site called 'Schizophrenia Forums' set up by a Canadian 'Schizophrenic'. It has some really amazing information - mostly because the writer of four blogs, one of them 'Jungian Approaches to Psychosis' another 'Spiritual Recovery' another 'Spiritual Emergency' (sorry, I forget the fourth) is a regualar contributor and has put together a whole ream of links to articles, books, films etc on the site. I would strongly recommend that anyone with an interest in mental health takes a look at all this - the research done is methodical and exacting. Go to the 'Recovery' thread on the front board of the Forum.

    Back to Human Givens; I also agree with the insight that there are certain 'Human Givens' that we all require in order to flourish; adequate living conditions, nourishment, love and so on. That the absence of the human givens in a person's upbringing causes dysfunction and their introduction to someones's life can correspondinly heal that person, is also an inspirational idea. I just lost faith in the book while reading the autism chapter - it seemed so speculative and undignified. I will go back to reading both of the Human Givens books that I bought - I should have persevered with them in the first place. Time just seems so limited these days - I am trying to cram too much in and end up not finishing everything properly.

    All the best

    Louise x