Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Giving and receiving

I discovered an amazing thing today. A good lesson to learn.

I've been feeling a lot of sadness lately because of some things I'm dealing with. Some of this sadness brings with it anxiety and fear. Fortunately I was able to get into an anxiety therapy group.

This morning I was waiting for the group to begin, talking to a lady sitting next to me. The things we were discussing made her cry (I didn't hurt her, honest). I myself had been feeling like crying all morning too. I stroked her back in an effort to comfort her. And you know, as I comforted her, I felt myself being comforted at the same time.

Truly amazing to think that we can help ourselves in this way.

I've so often "preached" how you can help your depression by thinking of others. And here, this proved it.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Compassion for yourself?

I struggle every once in a while with an anxiety that I know stems from my childhood. When a friend I rely on for support has to go away I often panic. "What am I going to do without her?" This problem is not nearly as bad as it was. It seems to crop up most when I'm going through a period of depression.

This is a fear of abandonment, a terrible feeling that make me feel like a child all over again. I know this is the result of having to leave home often before the age of ten. I was frequently sick and in hospital. In the mid-forties and fifties parents were not allowed to visit, except for brief periods now and then. Being a shy and anxious child these were hard times for me. I was also frequently sent away to stay with someone when my mother was sick. And I clearly remember, when I was seven, eight, and nine years old, being sent away to a health colony for six weeks at a time. Parents were only allowed to visit once, half-way through our time there. It's only in the past few years that I have recognized how traumatic my childhood actually was and how it's affecting me today, at sixty-six.

Yesterday I was feeling that anxiety and I wondered: should I feel compassion for the little child that was still inside me, or would that be feeling sorry for myself? And should I then be forgiving myself for feeling that way? But I didn't do anything wrong, did I?

A friend who also suffered during childhood and is having trouble with her mental health because of it, told me, "No. It's fine to feel compassion for yourself. It doesn't mean you're necessarily feeling sorry for yourself at all. It only means that you should be kind and gentle with yourself." Thinking of it that way comforts me. We need to comfort ourselves, don't we? We need to allow God to comfort us.

And as my thoughts progressed yesterday, I realized that I have compassion for people at Living Room who struggle with anxiety. I can see that the things I'm going through right now are going to help me better understand their pain. And when I have compassion for others, am I not indirectly having compassion for myself as well?

I'm thinking of Jesus now and how He loves us. He has compassion for us, doesn't He? He loves the part of us that still hurts like a little child and He will comfort that child.

Trusting God in this way will go a long way to healing our anxiety.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rethinking madness

I recently finished reading Rethinking Madness: Towards a Paradigm Shift in Our Understanding and Treatment of Psychosis (Sky’s Edge Publishing, 2012), a book that speaks about the cause and treatment of psychosis, mostly in people with schizophrenia. Author and psychologist Paris Williams, Ph.D, claims that, with the right support, full recovery from this disease is possible and even common. 

This book's views are out of the box, promising to be controversial amongst many, especially the psychiatric establishment. In fact, it is anti-psychiatry.

As you read this, please realize these are not my views, but the conclusions of the author. Never discontinue taking medications without consulting your doctor.

Williams’ research led him to believe that psychosis is not a brain disease as has been thought. Rather, he came to see it as a natural process “initiated by the psyche and…closely associated with a profound reorganization of one’s understanding and experience of the world and of oneself – one’s personal paradigm, in other words.” (Page 132)

The author tells us that there is abundant hope for recovery, a view not supported by the medical establishment. Psychiatry has always claimed that schizophrenia is a chronic disorder that requires life-long treatment with antipsychotic medication. Yet Williams says that long-term use of these medications do not help. The person with psychosis needs a chance to work through things in order to recover. Antipsychotics, when used in the long-term, actually hinder this recovery process.

This book had two effects on me:

As a piece of work that challenges the status quo of psychiatric medicine it excites me. It offers hope where psychiatry says there is no hope. I like revolutionary approaches, especially when tired old approaches haven’t worked. A fresh look at things, whether in medicine, science, or religion, can be healthy. And, in this case, it would be good if we could use fewer psychiatric drugs. Side effects are often worse than the benefits.

But the book also instils fear in me:
  • There could be a serious danger if people who are on medications were to read this book and, as a result of what they read, decide to suddenly stop taking them. The results could be tragic.
  • Have I been wrong all these years when I’ve encouraged people to listen to their psychiatrist and take their meds?
  • Should the wisdom of our psychiatrists be questioned more?  
  •  Are some of our mental illnesses not biochemical in nature after all? And what does that mean to our treatment?

  • Is the very posting of this review on my blog going to have an adverse effect on people who might not be wise about how they manage their medication? Would they stop trusting their psychiatrist’s care? (I know how important it is to trust the person who is treating you.)
  • On the other hand, would suppressing this information, information which could lead to radical change for sufferers, be irresponsible?

Yes, I need to let you know about this book.

Having lived with psychosis in the past, I appreciate Williams’ description of it, especially through the accounts of the six research subjects he features. I could identify with some of them and their stories helped me see what might have caused my own breaks with reality. I can also see why I have recovered from psychosis, though I continue to struggle off and on with moodswings.

Not having been educated in this field, I found the author’s more technical descriptions of the source of psychosis a bit beyond me, but that didn’t take away from the book's usefulness.

I would very much recommend this book, especially to open-minded and free-thinking doctors. Why not give a copy to your psychiatrist?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

William Kurelek

A couple of months ago my husband and I had the great pleasure of seeing a showing of William Kurelek's paintings at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Wow!! What exciting work!

That evening we saw a documentary on his life and work called The Maze. It was followed by a discussion with one of the film makers and Kurelek's oldest son.

If you are lucky enough to live in Toronto, you, too can take in this film on Friday, October 19th. To quote the press release:

Brothers Nick and Zack Young produced, restored and reimagined their father’s unseen 1969 film about renowned Canadian artist, William Kurelek to bring this inspiring documentary to life.  This screening launches the 20th Anniversary of Rendezvous with Madness and is held in conjunction with the 150th Anniversary celebration of the founding of St Anne’s Church.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion exploring issues of art, mental health, and faith.
 Confirmed as panel participants in the discussion on faith and mental health are:  Dr. Kwame McKenzieRev. Gary van der Meer, visual artist Lisa Walter, filmmaker Nick Young
, and William’s son Stephen Kurelek.

William Kurelek’s The Maze is dramatically told through his paintings and his on-camera revelations. The film takes an intimate look into the life of one of the 20th century’s most fascinating artists, his struggles with attempted suicide and a self professed “spiritual crisis.” Kurelek describes The Maze as “a painting of the inside of my skull which I painted while in England as a patient in Maudsley and Netherne psychiatric hospitals.”
William Kurelek’s The Maze is a timeless film about an artist, his creations, his inner demons and the external influences – both good and bad – that shaped his work.

General Public $15
For more information, go to The Maze.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Keeping margin in my life

A few posts ago I was considering starting an online Living Room., a blog that would try to do for people what real life Living Room meetings do for attendees. I've thought much about it, but today I can see I'm just too busy to take on another thing. Perhaps if I were younger and had more energy I could manage it. Is it common not to be able to handle as much when you get into your senior years? I'm really finding that I need lots of down times. Time to relax. Time without commitments.

Quite a few years ago my pastor gave a sermon that included the importance of building margin into your life. We should never be so busy that we can't respond to a friend in need. We should never try to cram too many things into our schedule. Breathing space is important.

Now at sixty-six I find that all the more true. I just can't do as much as I used to.

There are people in my life who I need to make room for: my husband, my 98-year-old mother, my friends, people from Living Room needing extra attention. I also need to keep room in my life for writing and for photography. There is also endless work to be done trying to plant more Living Room groups. Uggh!! I could use an extra me!

With all this going, it would be down-right crazy of me to start another blog, wouldn't it? What was I thinking of?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Mental health stigma declining

I received this press release from Screening for Mental Health, Inc. and thought it well worth passing on. It's something to celebrate. The world seems to be changing for the better. Although Depression Screening Day here in Canada happened last week, our friends in the US can still take part - this Thursday, October 11th.

October 9, 2012 (Boston, MA) - Most Americans are familiar with depression and do not attach a stigma to seeking treatment for it from a therapist. In fact, most Americans believe that depression is treatable and go so far as to say it would not affect their vote in a presidential election if they heard that a candidate had consulted a therapist for depression.

The public opinion poll findings released this month by Screening for Mental Health, Inc., a nonprofit provider of mental health screening programs, come as thousands of community-based organizations, military installations and colleges prepare to host National Depression Screening Day events on Thursday, October 11. Screening locations and anonymous online screenings are available at www.HelpYourselfHelpOthers.org.

“These findings tell us that our efforts to reduce stigma and increase the public’s knowledge of depression through events like National Depression Screening Day are having an effect,” said Douglas G. Jacobs, M.D., associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and founder of Screening for Mental Health, Inc. “The goal of the program is to educate people on the symptoms of depression, assess their risk for mood and anxiety disorders and connect those in need with local treatment services.” 

The telephone poll conducted by Anderson Robbins Research surveyed 1,021 American adults between September 15 and 20 and sought to evaluate perceptions and knowledge of depression and mental health. 

Other key findings include:

·       Half (53%) of Americans personally know someone who has been treated for depression;
·       Nearly three-quarters (72%) say they’d be likely to speak with a health care provider if they thought they were experiencing signs of depression;
·       Two-thirds (67%) believe depression can be successfully treated most of the time;
·       Two-thirds (65%) say learning a presidential candidate had sought treatment for depression would have no impact on their vote. There were no significant differences with regard to political party identification;
·     Those who know people with depression are more likely than others to seek help themselves, (76%, compared to 66% of those who don’t know anyone with depression), and are more optimistic about the frequency with which depression can be successfully treated.

To continue to educate members of the public on the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide, and the correct course of action to take, National Depression Screening Day will take place on October 11.  As part of this 22nd annual event, community organizations, colleges and military installations throughout the nation will offer free, anonymous mental health screenings. This event helps individuals learn the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide; educates friends and family members on what to do if a loved one is at risk; and gives individuals the opportunity to talk to a mental health professional about their own or a loved one’s situation. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

A different person

Just a quick thought that occurred to me this morning:

It's amazing what different people we become when we're emotionally healthy. I can see it in myself. I can see it in a good friend I have who often suffers from depression. It's almost like our personalities change.

I don't know if I have much more to say about this. You have to experience my friend and me. You have to live with us to fully appreciate it.

...but maybe you can see it in yourself as well.

May God lead us to a healthy way of life, effective medications, and the ability to trust in Him.

That was a quickie, wasn't it?