Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Celebrity - no thanks!

I watched a podcast (I am not sure if that is the right word) last night.  It was of Caitlin Moran speaking to David Aaronvitch, about her book 'How to be a Woman'.

Here's the link:
You can click on the 'Watch Caitlin' button at the top to see it.  It's definitely worth looking at - although it is an hour and forty minutes long.  Look at it as an evening's entertainment.

She said she gets two thousand tweets a day from people she doesn't know, and that is why she doesn't reply to them - which made me squirm with embarrassment, as I tweeted her a few weeks ago.  She had written about schizophrenia in The Times Saturday magazine, so I wanted to point her to this blog, and others, which she might have found informative.

But of course, Caitlin Moran doesn't have time for mental health - or only as a passing topic.  It is not her specialist subject, it is mine (and not exclusively mine, obviously).   During this talk Caitlin asked why there are not more people with specialist interests writing columns - who better to write a column about being on benefits, for example, than someone who is?

Well, apart from the fact that if you had a column about being on benefits you would get paid for it and therefore not be on benefits any more, it is just not that easy to get a column.  Caitlin is obviously talented, but her success owes something to luck - or fate - too, and as she said nowadays it would be almost impossible for a working class person to break into top-level journalism as she did.

But maybe I should pitch a mental health column to The Times.  Who knows..?

Watching the podcast (?) gave me much pause for thought.  There were apparently one thousand people in the audience, and I am pretty sure that a lot of them were aspiring writers, or aspiring celebrity writers.  What I mean is, they looked like media types, or other sorts of professional people, and I am sure because of the nature of the event (an author talk) that plenty of the audience were hoping to learn something about how to take a similar path to Caitlin Moran - the path to success.  I have been to a few author talks over the years, and there are always a good smattering of aspiring writers in the audience.

What I am trying to say is - it is almost impossible to learn how to break through.  Apart from writing and writing (and it's surprising how many aspiring writers - probably the majority - neglect to put pen to paper very often at all) - we have little control over how successful our books will be.  A lot of it is down to marketing, being in the right place at the right time, and so on.  Caitlin slogged for twenty years before reaching her current dizzy heights of fame.  I reckon that's about an average length of time. 

And anyway, after watching the (film thing) I am not sure if I aspire to celebrity at all.  I don't think I have the stamina.  Caitlin has a huge fan base, but she has some detractors too, and she was defending herself against some of them (eg the people who complain that she only communicates with other celebrities on Twitter).  I don't think I would like to live under that degree of scrutiny.

I would like to be recognised for my writing, though.  Each time I get a good review of my book it makes me so excessively happy - I know I am a writer now, but confirmation of that fact will always be sweet.  I entered a memoir writing competition a while ago; the prize is publication by Hodder, and I can't help but hope...

But if I don't ever get an agent or a proper publisher, I don't think I would despair, as long as I could continue to write and to earn a small income from it.  We have everything we need in our little home - it's warm and dry, and best of all there's plenty of love.  I just cribbed that line from a children's book called 'Little Kitten Gets Lost' or something like that - but it fits, it really does.  There are some things that money can buy and some that it can't, but in certain circumstances fame can be a spoiler, I'm sure of it. 

Now I'm going to get on and pitch that column.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Woolly Weekend

I've been trying to practice mindfulness recently - it's not easy to keep pulling your thoughts back to the present moment, especially if, like me, you have formed lifelong habits of worrying and daydreaming.  During my recent transformative sessions of CBT I learned about the power of thought - how strongly your thoughts influence your emotions and therefore how important it is to keep them positive -  but I do keep slipping back.

I've had a bit of a 'woolly weekend' - it's my head that's been woolly.  I had a sore throat at the end of last week that turned into a cold.  Frequently I have found myself thinking about the likelihood of some or all of the children catching this cold, and wondering how ill they'll become, how much time they'll have to take off school, how I'll cope...  Then I have to pull myself up and realise how thinking this way drags me down.  At least I realise when I'm doing it now.

When I'm not feeling so well physically I often get a bit glum and muddled mentally - I am sure that's the same for everyone.  By the end of Saturday I ended up in quite a state.  I spent several hours in the morning helping at the school Christmas Fair, which I found quite draining.  Then I took my Mum to the shops - again because I felt I should, although I was not really up to it and did not really want to.  There was so much traffic and so many people around, and by the time I got home I just felt close to collapse.  Luckily for me, Paul had cooked a meal, and after eating with the family and  having a quiet evening in front of the TV things were much improved.

I had a quiet morning at home today, then this afternoon I took three of my children and one of their friends to see Skyfall, the new Bond film.  I've already seen it - Paul took me on my birthday - but I didn't mind going again (I'm noble like that).  I made myself pretty unpopular at the cinema, handing out packs of crisps and popcorn to all the kids.  I never intend to choose the noisiest snacks, it just always seems to happen that way.  Anyway, it was a good way to spend a wet afternoon.

So the most energetic thing I have done today is to brush the dog (it's been too long since the last time) and trim her fur.  She loved all the attention, sweet little thing that she is.  Now I'm going to get an early night, and hopefully by tomorrow morning my thoughts will be less woolly - ideally not woolly at all. 

Friday, 23 November 2012

Wild Comments

Houston, I have a problem...

While trying to do two things at the same time (straighten out a babysitting situation with a friend and publish a recent comment on this blog) I made a major mistake.  I somehow published ten unmoderated comments, instead of the one I had been intending.  Aargh!  I am short of time this morning, but have just spent half an hour looking for the errant comments, and only found one of them (it was the most important one, somebody had sent me her private email address, so I took that off straightaway).

The others had remained unpublished either because they were from friends, or because they were abusive, or they were spam.   So, now there are some  unpleasant or unecessary remarks under some of the blog posts, for which I apologise.  The trouble is that there are so many blog posts, and so many comments attached to them, that it is like looking for a needle in a haystack.  I have a list of all the published comments, but it is eight pages long, and although I looked carefully, somehow quite a few seem to have slipped under the radar. 

Sorry, again.  Please let me know, anybody who sees anything they don't think should be there.  I will have another thorough look this evening.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Progress of the Hall

Since writing yesterday's post I have been worrying, in case anybody thought after reading it that I must be losing the plot, or that I had lost all sense of gravitas, nattering on about the decorating.  Although long-term readers of this blog will know that it does drift around to various subjects, it has mainly been purely on mental health issues recently. 

The truth is, that writing and thinking about mental health too much wears me down.  So I don't do it all of the time.  Although I don't seem to be able to get off the subject for long.  But then sometimes I feel that although mental health is not particularly on my mind but I should write a blog post - that the blog would benefit from being updated - and that is when I seem to go off on a tangent, blogging about how I have just walked the dog, or am going to clean and reorganise the house (again) or decorate the hallway...

I am starting to think that I might need a new blog, as a creative outlet for my frivolous days. I might just do that.

Anyway, the hall is not quite finished yet.  Tonight the noticeboard has gone back up, and very nice it looks too, IMO.  Hopefully, the pegs will also go up this evening, so I will have somewhere to hang the coats, which are currently the bane of my life, floating about between the porch and the conservatory, unsure where is home.  The laundry basket has been moved out of the front room, which can only be an improvement.  And...oh, there I go again, sinking into urbane domesticity.  STOP!

I went to Psychology today (the second class this week; we have ground to cover before the looming exam).  And I am proud to say that I have already completed my homework - after getting about three weeks behind and starting to feel pretty panicky until I caught up the other day, I have decided to stay in front from now on.  I do feel pleased with myself, especially since I have also been working on my ghost-writing today and now that is all done too.  Smug, I think is the word to express how I feel.

I may even find some time in the next few days to finish the short story I started at the weekend.  It was inspired by a recent encounter in a supermarket (such are the parameters of my life) and it has given me lots of ideas for other stories.  I can't help feeling that short stories are a cop-out and that I should really be in it for the long haul - but they are fun, and that is what matters.

Meanwhile, some time ago I offered to help Rethink Mental Illness, as a volunteer on their physical health forum.  I have waited a while for a response to this, and the volunteering opportunity has now changed - apparently there are four volunteers and the intention is that a contact at Rethink will feed us snippets of information which we will then disseminate via social media.  Their physical health campaign is centred around the tragic fact that people with a serious mental illness die on average many years younger than the general population.  So this is what we will be seeking to address.

Hopefully, this voluntary work will tie in with my paid work for Newcastle Uni, and one will inform the other.  I am not sure how it will all happen yet, but I have faith that happen it will.  Watch this space! 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Life, love, laughter

This is going to be an odd sort of a blog post - I know that, even though I haven't written it yet.  How can I tell?  By the title.  Duh.

I feel like writing something positive and upbeat.  I have started reading the 'Selfhood' book by Dr Terry Lynch.  I am not very far in at all, so I can't comment yet on the quality or content of the book.  It has done me good already though, just to know that this sort of a book exists - that there are people who are interested in helping other people, 'even' so-called 'schizophrenics' and others with serious mental health problems, towards a better life, and who don't think that they should be written off.

I was just reading an old issue of the Sunday Times Style magazine, which I had somehow not read but not yet thrown away.  And there were some recommendations for other books in there, that I have noted - The Yellow World, by Albert Espinosa, and Breakthrough by David Carter.  I will get those at some point.  I do like a self-help book!

Paul has been busy non-stop since Saturday morning, stripping, sanding, filling and painting.  He worked all through the weekend on the hall, and in the evening after he comes home from work as soon as he has eaten his dinner, he carries on.  I like this new, energetic husband. 

He's working very fast.  The hall is now getting its second coat of paint - the radiator should be back on the wall tonight, and so should my massive notice board.  I am not sure what colour the walls are - it is a pot of paint that he has collected at some time (have I ever mentioned that my husband is a hoarder?)   It seems like a nice enough colour - light and bright, much better than the garish yellow that has been the hall decor for the last few years - and goodbye to that horrid old thick textured wallpaper that we have been painting over since we moved here eleven and a half years ago (how long?!) 

I love my notice board, it is one of my favourite things.  It is not much use, because it is usually so weighted down by sundry bits of paper that I can never find/see the information I want.  But I love it because it reminds me of how full my life is now, and how lucky I am that I have to find time for all this stuff that the pieces of paper are supposed to remind me to do.  Most of them are from the schools.  But I don't mind that my social life consists of children's parties, school fayres and Christmas carol concerts.  What on earth else could I do with my time that would give me half as much satisfaction?

Since the board came off the wall I have taken off a lot of the extraenous paperwork, and now it looks immaculate and orderly.  I am going to get some new pens tomorrow, and keep some space free on the board for scribbling and doodling.

I have moved my desk, which was in the hallway, into my bedroom, where it fits in fine, and makes me feel more organised already.  The next step is to actually do some organising.  I have too much paperwork in and around the bedroom, but I feel that now I have a place to keep it all, things will improve. 

I am also going to think of some ways to improve the hall area, rather than just move everything back into the original positions.  The desk will stay here, so I am thinking of using that space to maybe put a cupboard, or at least some shelves, for storage.  The notice board will go on a different wall.  The possibilities are endless!

Youngest son (note, not Toddler any more!) had his first friend back from school today.  They had an absolute riot, played non-stop, and the noise got louder and louder...  It was nice to see him so excited and happy.  Although, come to think of it, he is permanently excited and happy.

Long may it last!

Anyway, apologies for banging on about the hallway.  I did warn you at the outset that this was going to be an odd blog post.  Just be grateful I haven't figured out how to upload pictures of the hall yet...  I may do that, and then put them on here. 

If I do it quickly enough, you might be able to watch the paint dry. 


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Health and Wellbeing Boards, and ImROC

I received a question on the comment section of my last blog post - I was asked what Health and Wellbeing Boards are, and what is the concept of public health all about?  It was one of those jolly good questions which focus the mind - I had been meaning to update the last post anyway because I knew it lacked clarity, but now I will just write a new one instead.

Here, in a bit of a cop-out, is a link to the Department of Health page about the new Health and Wellbeing Boards, which will take on their responsibilites from April 2013:

And here is a link to some information about ImROC (which is a project to help services focus on recovery within mental health treatment):

Basically, insitutional change is afoot in the mental health system - hurray!  And, in my opinion, those of us with an interest in such matters should try to get involved to ensure that real change takes place on the ground.  This is our opportunity.  The Boards do not have to accept service-user input, but almost certainly will do so - if approached properly and politely (note to self- behave nicely!). Certainly judging by the fact that I was allowed to join the ImROC webinar and that my questions during it were taken seriously, I would say that people with lived experience who can suggest improvements to the current system will be welcomed. 

I say it is a bit of a cop-out just to provide links to the relevant pages, because I would like to digest and rephrase all of the information they provide as clearly as possible, but I just don't have the time today.

However, all the necessary information is on those pages, and more can be discovered by following the links on them.  As for public health, in answer to the same comment, the definition I have found is that it relates to the protection and improvement of the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles and research to prevent disease and injury.

Because I was away from my family last weekend, I am playing catch-up now.  I am determined to spend more time with the kids (trying to only work while they are at school or asleep).  Although I am on the computer right now, my excuse is that I am also in the kitchen cooking dinner (slightly late for us, but Younger Daughter made a lot of chocolate cakes this morning, which have warded off everybody's hunger pangs for a little longer than usual this afternoon). 

I have decided to try to sort out the house properly before Christmas - I know the chaos will always creep back, but I just think if for once I can have all areas properly orgnanised at the same time it will be easier to keep it in check.  Plus, I have to find some space to accommodate all the new Christmas gifts that the children are about to accumulate.  Visitors to my home always say that it is clean and tidy and can't see why I should think otherwise - but I know what needs to be done, and it is pretty much constant.  I am sure that with more organisation I could simplify things, and cut down on the amount of housework that needs doing - but it may well be impossible, as Paul always states. 

On the bright side, both the girls now keep their bedrooms wonderfully neat, so that is two less rooms for me to tackle. 

Paul suddenly decided to re-decorate the hall this morning (a surprise for me - he went out for a drink with a mate last night and usually the last thing he wants to do the 'morning after' is anything that involves any sort of action at all).   So real disorder reigns today - but I am hoping against hope that he will get the whole thing done by Monday morning, so that the upheaval does not continue into next week.    

I will let you know what happens there...

Thursday, 15 November 2012

ImROC Webinar

I just attended my first 'Webinar' - strictly speaking, I virtually attended it.  It was called, 'Public Mental Health, Wellbeing and Recovery' and was hosted by ImROC - you will have to look that up.  It's an official organisation but I am not the best person to explain what they do - there has recently been a paper published on the subject of this webinar apparently, which I felt I should have read before the webinar (and would have done if I'd known about it).  I stumbled across a notice about the Webinar on Twitter and asked to join it.  I had heard about ImROC through my short-lived engagement with the Dorset Mental Health Forum.  Apparently they will be publishing a new paper soon on Peer Support and another on Carers, and once I am up to speed with all this I will provide a link to their publications here (and advance notice of any more webinars, so that anyone else interested can join in).   

I enjoyed the webinar experience and understand a little more now about the official attitudes to public mental health, recovery and the establishment of the new Health and Wellbeing Boards.  I may even try to wheedle my way onto one of these boards - apparently they welcome service-user input. 

The trouble is though, I am a bit of an agitator (unfortunately sometimes it is necessary to agitate in order to effect change).  I don't mean to offend anyone, but I do like to be able to speak freely.  Which is why although it is a shame in some ways that I don't now work for the Forum (especially as they are partners in the local NHS trust and therefore all local peer support workers seem to have to be channelled through them) it is probably for the best that I operate independently.  I am not on bad terms with the Forum, and hopefully we can work together in the future.

Having stated on here that I was asked to alter my case study for the Schizophrenia Commission report, I opened a can of worms, because obviously it is unethical to ask someone for a case study, then try to remove from it the crucial point that they are trying to make (about diagnosis).  Although on the scale of corruption, this was a pretty innocuous offence - especially since when I said 'No' to its removal, they consequently included the offending line in the case study.  It's on page 64 of the report, by the way (link below).  My first name was attributed, not my full name.  I notice that another case study has also mentioned the adverse and unhelpful effect of the word 'schizophrenia', so I'm not alone (although I never thought I was).

As it turns out, the recommendation of the report re. the diagnosis is laughable - that clinicians should think carefully before giving the diagnosis, because of the stigma and sense of disablement it produces (they didn't say disablement, I forget the actual word they used).  I mean, they know that already, and yet they still ruin people's lives with this label.  If the label wasn't an option, that could only be a vast improvement.

Link to the SC report:

I am still working my way through the report - have not yet found anything in there that I didn't already know.  In fact, I have been considering writing an 'alternative report' just for a laugh - but I am worried that it would take too long (must do that Psychology homework this week!) and that any humour I might try to inject might not end up being particularly funny. 

I suppose the mention of Recovery Houses in the report is good - especially if these would be used as alternatives to hospital treatment, not just for recuperation afterwards.  Any alternative to hospital treatment under the present system could only be a good thing.

My hackles were raised when I got to the section in the report on medication.  I try not to write too much about this issue - although I know for a fact that I would not have recovered as well as I have, if I was still on antipsychotic drugs.  However, I recognise that this is a sensitive issue - many people try to stop their drugs and break down as a result, and nobody wants to feel responsible for the breakdown of another human being. 

I know many people see their drugs as a necessity, and don't mind taking them, despite the side-effects.  Each to his own.  But I think that more help should be given for people who wish to stop taking them.  I was lucky - each time I had recovered from a breakdown, I was helped by a medical professional to slowly wean myself off the medication.  I am grateful for this - even though after my second breakdown it was not the mental health professionals who helped (more of this in my book,  don't want to keep bleating over old ground).

Now, what the report says is that antipsychotics are 'the cornerstone of treatment' - that when people were asked - 'What is the single most effective support for those with schizophrenia or psychosis?' they said medication.  But surely - surely - this is because there are all too often no alternatives - drugs are the only support offered!

Here's a link to a You Tube video about antipsychotics.  It's not long, but it's a real eye-opener:

To sum up - I think more people should be helped to recover from emotional distress (aka mental illness).  There are lots of ways of doing this, so let's try to explore them all.  And let's not use the word schizophrenia any more - let's let it die out, just as the old terminology of 'lunatics' and 'lunacy' has done.  Let's allow common decency to replace it with kinder words, since the Schizophrenia Commission have failed to do so.  (Thanks to Kate Hudson of Newcastle Uni for that thought.  It has given me hope).

I suppose really I should re-name this blog - 'Thoughts from the Thought-Disordered' or some such.  But then how would it reach the people who might be helped by it?  I am almost certainly going to re-name my memoir soon though, with the word 'Schizophrenia' edited out - so please, take care not to buy it twice, anybody who already has a copy!

Incidentally, I wrote this blog post against the clock.  I hope it's all clearly enough expressed - if not, my rush is the reason/excuse.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Schizophrenia Commission Report out Tomorrow

I had a Direct Message on Twitter yesterday from the Schizophrenia Commission - thanking me for my blog and telling me that there had been differing views on the diagnosis within the Commission. Which I thought was rather polite of them, considering my slightly uncouth behaviour ('dissing' them on Twitter recently).

 I also received an email yesterday, telling me that my case study has been used in the Commission Report, and attributed to me by name, as with the case studies they had requested from others.  Also, apparently, there has been a recommendation about the diagnosis in the report, although 'not as strong as you would like'.  And apparently, when the report is released there will be information about where we can continue the debate.

I considered being churlish and refusing to engage in any further debate.  But that would, in effect, amount to cutting off my nose to spite my face.  So, I look forward to reading the full report tomorrow - although I am still mightily offended by the failure of the Commission to recommend a change of name for the diagnosis, and baffled by how on earth they could have thought that this was a fair and reasonable course of action. 

Monday, 12 November 2012

Paula Caplan

Below is a link to a ten minute video - it is well worth a watch:

The video was posted on YouTube by Paula Caplan, an eminent American psychologist.  It is about the harm done by psychiatric diagnosis - 'portrayed as scientific, helpful and harmless' when it is completely the reverse.  At the end of the video she gives links to further sources of information and ways to take action.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rethink Mental Illness National Members' Day 2012

I returned quite late last night from Nottingham.  I had travelled up with my friend on Friday night, and we had stayed overnight at a hotel in preparation for the Rethink Mental Illness Members Day on the Saturday.  I had fond memories of this event from last year, when it was held at the Russell Hotel in London.  My friend, incidentally, is a Trustee of the charity - I won't divulge her name here as I don't know whether she would appreciate that.  Thanks to her, I got to travel up for free (she will get her expenses reimbursed by the charity) and I shared her hotel room for just a small subsidy.

The best part of the whole weekend was - coming home, of course!  I was homesick almost as soon as I left on Friday morning - so just arriving home last night and walking into my bright warm comfortable house, filled with the people who I love so much - was blissful.  My younger daughter had been baking, and presented me with a tray of biscuits, each with an iced letter, spelling out the words, 'Welcome back!'  It was almost worth going away, just to come home.

However, I do wonder what I am doing sometimes, with this mental health activism, and why.  I wonder if it is damaging to me personally.  On a very basic level, I would have had a much more peaceful and relaxing weekend at home, and on a more complex plane, the potential harm done to my social life and career by identifying myself as a person with schizophrenia is possibly quite serious, although not quantifiable in any way.  (The most important factor is of course the possible effect on my children of being identified as the offspring of someone with a diagnosis of schizophrenia).

On the way home, after we had discussed the day's events, my friend suggested that I should write something else for a while - a nice romance, perhaps, or a children's book.  She said she thought it would be better for me.  She may well be right.

The thing is though, that I have no real choice.  I just feel compelled to carry on with this work.  I have never had a career anyway, prior to identifying my vocation as a writer (possibly because of the damage that was done to my psyche by the infliction of the diagnosis in the first place) and I have never been one of those people who is impressed by the social standing of others or who wishes to pretend to be something I am not in order to impress other people.  And I still maintain that my children are more likely to benefit from all this than they are to suffer from it - as long as I remain firmly rooted in the home, loving and nurturing them, and don't get carried away by my wish to improve the mental health system and end up neglecting my own family's needs as a result.

I suffered a major disappointment yesterday - I learned that the Schizophrenia Commission have not recommended that the label be abolished or changed as I had hoped.  (The report is not due to be published until next week but I feel no sense of loyalty that would prevent me from publishing this 'spoiler'). 

I was not actually surprised to find out that the label has not been changed - I suspected as much by the fact that after asking me to write a case study (of my own case) I was asked if I would mind if it was 'tweaked' to reflect the fact that some members of the Commission do not agree with my view of the damage done by the diagnosis of schizophrenia.  After some thought I rejected my instinct towards compliance and wrote back to say that if they did use my case study I would prefer the wording left intact.  They agreed to use the case study as I wrote it, and apparently it has been included in the report (although I think anonymously.  I am not sure, I have not seen it, but one of the other Trustees who I spoke to yesterday dropped a big hint to this effect).  Although of course, it might be removed after I have published this blog post!

So I had an inkling of what the outcome of this report would be - and it was confirmed as soon as I saw the title of Robin Murray's talk at the meeting yesterday - 'What next for the Schizophrenia Commission?'

So the Schizophrenia Commission will continue - having already let down the people they are supposed to be helping.  The parts of the report that Robin Murray disclosed yesterday say nothing that anybody didn't already know - that there are problems in the system and in the use of medication and so on and so forth.  As there always have been.  I listened hard, and I didn't hear anything ground breaking in anything that he said (although I was surprised at the extent of his criticism of mental health nurses, speaking of how they become hardened over time. Of course they do, by having to earn their living in a system that provides so little in the way of care.  He also said that psychiatrists are not as good in private hospitals as in the NHS.  Interesting, that - I wonder why the recovery rates are so much better in private hospitals, in that case.  And I can't help wondering whether, if Robin Murray himself ever became mentally ill, whether he would choose to be treated at the Priory or by his local NHS Trust.  I'm pretty sure I know the answer to that.  Although the head of the Royal College of Psychiatrists just might have a slightly different experience than others in the mental health system).  I am not trying to be bitter and bitchy, by the way.  I just can't help it.  I am deeply disappointed.

I was actually close to tears yesterday on at least two occasions.  The first occasion was when listening to a poem read out by Peter Cox, who won the Pringle Prize for Poetry.  The poem told how it felt to be an outsider from society, about how others' perceptions impacted on his view of himself, how he couldn't even enjoy a sunny summer's day without feeling guilty for his brief happiness.  When Peter was given his prize, he asked humbly if we would like him to read out the poem, and there was hesitation from the award giver and the Board (proceedings were already running late).  Fortunately, several members of the audience filled the gap by calling out 'Yes!' and Peter was allowed to read his work.  That hesitation though, made me feel physically sick.

Later, I almost wept again when I realised that my suspicion that the Schizophrenia Commission had rejected their opportunity to effect any real change for sufferers was true.   Luckily I didn't disgrace myself (or conform to anybody's expectations of volatile behaviour from a 'schizophrenic') by actually crying in public, but it was hard to prevent myself from doing so. 

I know that so many lives could be changed, so easily and simply, by simply changing that word to another term.  Thought disorder - or, if that is not sufficiently 'serious-sounding' for mental health professionals, psychotic disorder syndrome or some such nonsense, as suggested by a member of the audience.  Anything, any change in the name, would reduce the stigma of diagnosis at a single stroke, and would improve the outlook and chances of recovery for sufferers. 

Changing the name would be an act of simple human kindness, and keeping the name is a cruelty.  An unnecessary cruelty, that benefits nobody except the psychiatrists themselves, and the rest of the mental health industry, who consequently get to continue to enjoy their power over other people's lives.  I can't imagine what else their motivation can be. 

I am staggered that they haven't effected the change.  Robin Murray was questioned on the subject by a member of the audience and he couldn't produce a coherent reply - he stuttered and stumbled over the issue, saying there were differing views, even claiming that, 'The Schizophrenia Commission doesn't have the power to say one way or another' (really, Sir Robin?).  Eventually he told us that although the diagnosis had been changed in some countries it wasn't going to happen here at the moment, but that maybe in a few years time, things would be different.

And the cynical part of me was thinking - oh yes, maybe after a few more years of enjoying the power and the glory (and the pay, and the public recognition) of being Chair of the Schizophrenia Commission - maybe when he has milked that for all it's worth - maybe then Robin Murray might get around to changing this damned label and thus alleviating the suffering of all those who have been led to believe they are less than human - that they are schizophenic and therefore 'other' and incapable and powerless and hopeless and helpless.  And helping too the young people who have been recently captured by the mental health system - preventing them from losing their hopes and their lives to the malicious diagnosis of 'schizophrenia'.  A lot of human beings could be spared a lot of suffering from that name change.  But not now. 

Not yet.


Let them eat cake.  

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Residency at Newcastle University

Whisper it... I may be getting a writer in residence post at Newcastle Uni!  I have been buzzing with ideas, and have been busy this evening running them by various people to see if they hold water. 

I am well aware that I shouldn't count my chickens before they are hatched - and that a public announcement that something may happen is hardly advisable - but, be away with you, superstition!  What will be, will be (or que sera, sera, as I sing to my beautiful little boys at their bedtime). 

I have been singing them the same four bedtime songs for years.  Que sera (or, as they call it, 'The Little Girl Song' is their favourite.  One evening, the littlest one (who was not quite four at the time) superimposed his own lyrics.  I only know one verse, 'Will I be famous, will I be rich?' but he changed the words and sang, 'Will I be pretty, will I be silly?'  Honestly.  The child is supernaturally bright - the other day he wanted me to play with him, and when I replied that I was busy tidying, he said, 'A tidy house brings a tidy mind, that's what I say!'

I was staggered - it is not something I say, and although I know he must have seen it on TV or heard someone else say it, I still think it demonstrates pretty impressive powers of retention. 

(Incidentally, I just found the YouTube clip for the song - very sweet: (although spoiled by the distasteful comment underneath) )

Anyway, I will have to work pretty hard to keep up.  I was looking at the notes for my psychology course the other night, and realised that I need to put in a major amount of work if I am to get through the exam with a decent grade.  So that is going to be my main task over the next couple of weeks - printing up all the powerpoints, writing up my own notes (just useless scribbles at present) making sure I understand and can recall the material.  Exam in January!

Going to listen to Radio 4 'All in the Mind' now.  Great programme.  Tonight the subject (or one of them) is CBT and psychosis.  Here's the link: