Thursday, March 11, 2010

The following story sent chills down my spine since it hit way to close to home. I am happy that the family made this statement:

"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," it said. "One thing is clear though — his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."

When my brother was missing in Italy, we were baffled by the laws which prevent a family from making decisions for their very ill family member. Josh had been missing for days when we finally received the call that he was back in Rome. We thought GREAT, now he is safe. Unfortunately, he could not be kept against his will even though he was clearly sick and could not make rational decisions on his own. I would never wish that experience on my worst enemy. There is really nothing to compare it to other than sheer helplessness.

So when I read the article above, I completely could relate to how the family must have felt in their situation. I have been there when my brother begged my mom to call the FBI because of his delusions/hallucinations. I have heard the pain in my mother's voice as she told me how my brother handed her a knife to put under her bed because he was certain someone might break in the house. I remember the stomach pains I felt when my parents pleaded with the hospital to take my brother in after he tried to run out of their car only feet from oncoming traffic because he thought bombs were headed for them. I can tell you that the torture is felt on both ends. Why must our cries for help be ignored when we are the ones living through the chaos. We are the voice of reason yet no one will listen. The law only seems to matter when it is far too late. This will always sadden me.

In my opinion, there are many flaws when it comes to the mental health system. It can't be all or nothing. Mental illness is not black and white. I wish that these laws allowed for flexibility so that the family could intervene. I know these stories of mental illness and violence are rare but when publicized, they affect the publics' perception in a very negative way. They only hear about these rare instances and assume ALL people living with mental illness must be violent. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but education on the subject is in great need if we want to see change. The public may only see the unfortunate violence which results from mental illness but they really need to be aware of the mental illness itself and what it can do to individuals who are suffering? What about these victims? My heart goes out to the officers who were involved in the shooting as well as the family who did not need to loose a son. This unfortunate incident could have been prevented.


  1. People don't really understand what schizophrenia is, and that's not much of a surprise because most psychologists admit they do not even know it themselves. So it's not much of a surprise that the only cure they offer is pills and the only idea the public has it to lock them away.
    Take my case, I had an unfortunate incident with two policemen a year ago, and the attorney wanted to put me in nut jail, the doctors wanted to describe livelong medication, but somehow I managed to cure myself without any chemistry - which is a long process, but I can give advice if you want -, and now nobody would call me sick or dangerous, perhaps I'm an artist who is a bit loonie to normal eyes, but I assure you, that's perfectly okay.
    The main thing I had to find out is that things are far more complicated than one with emotional and sensorial talents would like them to be, and I had to spend lots of time to develop my thinking, which is what actually cured me. Even there are newer approaches to mental illness from the side of philosophy, and using philosophy as a therapy, there are even therapists who have studied philosophy, and not so much of psychology, don't know if you know this. (It's quite a new thing nowadays, but in the olden days in Greece they also had it like this, and also about hundred years ago psychology and philosophy were very close, but later they got apart.)
    One thing we "schizophrenics" have to get aware of is that our society is more harmful to us than to others, because of our greater sensibility, and my guess is that none of us would become paranoid if there weren't such a vast amount of fear-causing stuff on the media. (I've once heard that the average American at the age of 20 has seen a few thousands of kills on TV and in the movies, is it surprising that you become paranoid if you're that kind of person whose experiences rearrange themselves dynamically in your brain and produce their own stories?)
    My main idea is that schizophrenics are a certain brand of people, and in other times and other cultures these people have been honored as priests and visionaries, but nowadays their only refuge is to become an artist or a freak. And that's mainly due to the normal people providing a different background.
    But well, we can't (and I also don't want) to go back, as our only future is the future, so let's just try if we find a way to make things a bit better, as we shouldn't expect a big shift to happen suddenly, but we shouldn't also expect it to happen not at all.

  2. Hi again. I haven't read much of your blog last time and wasn't aware that you are professionally fighting for changing the public opinion on schizophrenia. I'm all with you in this, and maybe my story is of some help to you. I was schizophrenic for maybe 20 years and got cured first by some therapy (dream analysis) on the internet, then had another strong episode for 2 years, and finally cured myself with thinking. All without medication, and without the aid of the health system. (Apart from three days where the policemen had taken me to the hospital and where they gave me an infusion with Haldol.) (Maybe this was a shock treatment that incited my cure, but actually those people were of no great help, and rather a hindrance.) (At least in my case, there sure are others where they assist in the healing.)
    Okay, the story is long, and it will take me a long time to write it down, but as I already have the place where I'll put it I want to inform you now so that you can read along. It's one of my blogs, At My Brain. The plan is to start with a few facts about neuroscience and some background ideas, and later proceed to telling my story.

    Maybe the whole thing is good enough for a book, I'm not yet sure how to write it, but if you have some connections to publishers or some advice about writing, or simply want to read along and comment, I'd be glad.
    Could also be some internet project, where the comments in a way guide the direction of my writing, there are many possibilities. First of all, the experiences and visions I had were so intense and out-of-the-world that they would be a fully-fledged adventure and fantasy story in itself. Quite funny at times, and I'm also a kind of writer who can give a funny touch to it, probably a good way to combat stigma. (Do you know that movie about mental illness, I guess it's from the Danish Dogma line, that is light-hearted and joyous? Really a good mood for people who shouldn't have a single care in the world.)
    Well, also a part of it is about a harmful New Age movement, a former guru whom I fell prey to, and where I only much later realized that it was all lies and deception. Then there's the part about raising children, many things have gone wrong in my case, ultimately the main reason why I didn't get a proper life. (Not to blame my family in particular, it's the whole society, and my parents have suffered themselves from their parents, and those from theirs,...)
    Well, and then there's a couple of explanations about inner workings of the psyche (of my psyche, actually, but I guess it's of relevance to others, too), and there's also some sort of perspective to a higher mental development. A vast number of topics, such a big project that I'm kind of uneasy about beginning it, but maybe the problem here is that I'm perfectionist and lazy, and want to write everything as good as possible at the first stroke, for not having to edit much later, and for making it as good as possible. (Unfortunately I read lots of literature some time ago, and so the stakes I put to myself are high.) (And even more unfortunately English isn't my first language, and writing in German would be faster and better in style, but somehow I also like English, and for blogging at least I prefer it.) (Just need to read more and learn more vocabulary.) (Ok well, maybe I give a short draft version on the blog, and then write the book in German, don't know.)
    So, wish you good luck and much success in your work, hope to hear from you, and hope that you (and others) will like my project.

  3. Just wanted to stop by and say hello! Take care, Amber!

  4. There is a way to get the family invovled, but only if your brother chooses too. When I was at Friendship House they helped me fill out a special form. It is something similar to a living will. I don't remember what it called, but my Dad is my caretaker if I become so sick that I can't make decisions on my own. Orignally when I filled out the form, I put that I could not have ETC treatment. However, after Carol got ETC I thought differently about it. Anyway, if I ever get so bad again that I can't make decision on my own then my Dad can make them for me, he doesn't have to be left helpless. I do have a living well proxy and my Mom is the one for that, but she doesn't handle my mental illness well. I mean she supportive, but if they called her up and told her I was in the "quiet room" what should they do. She would freak. I did this because when I was 19 and scared, I wanted my family to be able to help me, but the mental health system wouldn't let them. You're right it screwed up.

    Are you mad at me? I haven't heard from you in a long time. Are you alright? I miss you.


  5. Maybe she is having her baby. I also was born 3 weeks too early.

  6. HAHA, thank you all for your responses. I wish I was giving birth soon, I am totally ready:)

    Molecule Colony,
    I am happy that you have made so much progress over the time you have had to deal with your illness. One of the reasons I write my blog is so I can meet others who give me hope that my brother can improve over time. I am still is awe of how much you must overcome when you have schizophrenia. That is the message I want the send to the public since right now, they seem to view mental illness as black and white. This couldn't be further than the truth. It's almost like we don't want to deal with this social issue so we just sweep it under the rug. I hate that my muse is an illness but if I can use art as a tool to inspire hope or understanding, then it's worth my time and effort. I wish more than anything that my brother could find peace without medicine but in our experience, he becomes way too ill to function at all without medicine. If anything, I wish he could function on a minimal amount of medicine while using some sort of a holistic approach. I have learned so much from this experience and it has changed my perspective on so many things. I never paid attention to politics but now, things seem so clear to me. BTW, I agree with your comment about childhood. I feel like I could write a book about how mental illness in a family (which is not faced) can affect childhood. Thank you again for your responses and just to let you know, I am very near to giving birth so wish me luck!! I can't wait to teach my child about how to an empathetic human being!

    Amanda, I will email:)

  7. Well, just in case you haven't noticed, I've already started to write that book. Didn't expect it so early, lol, thought I'd need some more months of preparation, but no, here it goes:
    The positive news is that it's absolutely possible to cure schizophrenia and live without medicaments, the negative news is that you need to learn so much about how the brain works and how to handle it well that I doubt my insights and discoveries will be of practical use for too many people.
    Maybe for you it'll be easy to understand the explanations I put there, having studied biology. (I also studied it, quit as a bachelor.) What is essential is some understanding of how the brain works, especially getting a feeling about the network and system aspect.
    I hope I have put enough in the text I've written so far for using it as a starting point, however, there would be much more to say, but I didn't want to make it too hard to read. The concept actually is that people like your brother who are affected should read it and get some subliminal messages from the stories I experienced (most of which are yet to come), which should give them a feeling about what's going on there and how to get out of it.
    The part that is written until now contains the basic and some advanced explanations, it will be the end of the book. It should give you a deeper insight about what schizophrenia actually is and give you some ideas about how to better advise your brother.
    If you want we can talk by email, it's my name I wish you good luck with your birth, I'm sure the baby already wants to know how it will be when she/he is as big as you :)