A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scientific Research On The Causes Of Schizophrenia Is Inconclusive

Today I was studying some of the more recent research at Schizophrenia.com about the causes of schizophrenia, but none of it, it turns out, is conclusive.  Researchers tend now to see the illness from a biological and "environmental" perspective.  Environmental means there are both psychological and social factors.  The writer of the research article went on to offer many possible reasons for the development of schizophrenia from inherited defective genes to emotional neglect in childhood to illicit drug use to lack of vitamin D during pregnancy to growing up in the city to a common parasite gotten from handling cat feces to being born in the winter months, etcetera.  In short, no one knows for sure.  One thing that does seem somewhat clear, aside from having a history of mental illness in one's family, is that stress factors into it.  Stress can trigger changes in the brain.  Also, you may have the gene for schizophrenia, but if there are no environmental factors triggering it, it remains dormant.  A gene has to be turned on in order for illness to manifest itself.

Those of us who developed schizophrenia most likely had not only a genetic predisposition, but multiple psychological and social factors as well.  Children and youths are said to be five to ten times more sensitive generally than adults, which is why the formative years are so crucial to anyone's development.  I wonder how many of us with the illness suffered from some sort of abuse when we were young.  In my case, I believe I suffered from some emotional neglect from my parents, ironically because they were so focused on my older brother who from a young age had "emotional problems".  My brother in turn argued that it was my parents who had the emotional problems and needed to go see a shrink more than he did.  (My mother and I did in fact visit with my brother's therapist on several occasions which was something my mother deeply resented.)  Personally, I think it is true that my parents, though very responsible financially and for covering our basic needs (particularly my mother), were not exactly parent material.  My father was emotionally distant and my mother critical, cool and resentful (again) of having to take care of two children without much help.  Her mother had told her early on that she would not be available to baby sit that often. I'm sure that hurt my mother and left her without a guiding resource to rely on.  Growing up, I resented my mother more than my emotionally absent father, because I was around her more.  It was only later after college, around the time I began hearing voices, that I began to sympathize with her as she graduated from taking care of her children to taking care of her mother and my father's mother as they began to age.  Now, of course, years after my brother and I left home and my grandmother's had died, she is a much happier person.  

Don't get me wrong, I love my parents.  I think they did the best they could, but I won't rule out the possibility that their behavior towards me when I was young contributed to me growing up dysfunctional.  Once the dysfunction had set in, I myself continued the trend by behaving badly too, but by then I was an adult or rather an adult child because they continued to take care of me.  The truth is there is no parenting manual and a lot of parents learn through trial and error...unless they fail to learn at all.  I know some people cringe at the idea that a mother (or any major caretaker) should be held responsible for their child's development of schizophrenia or any major psychological illness, but it seems as if there may be at least a touch of truth to that assertion.  It's not the whole truth because I believe genetics play a factor and are no one's fault.  Still, behavior affects biology, just as stress affects brain chemistry.  A human child is a wonderful, but delicate being and there needs to be a balance between physical care and mental/spiritual/emotional care.  Also, mothers (and fathers who step up to their parenting responsibilities) need a support system, friends and family, even a therapist and more and more these days, qualified daycare professionals.  Mothers in isolation are asking for trouble.

The area of schizophrenia that most practical scientists veer away from and ignore is the spiritual aspect of the illness, which of course necessarily intertwines with the psychological/social aspects.  It is not surprising to me that much about the illness is unknown because the very nature of spirit is that it goes beyond common knowledge and into the unknown.  I continue to assert that though biology probably sets the stage for schizophrenia, the voices themselves originate from someplace external to the individual.  Some call them spirits or angels or devils or, in my case, aliens.  Be they higher or lower powers because they are not tangible and visible, people assume that they don't exist.  And tangibly they don't exist, at least not in this dimension, but that doesn't mean that there isn't a link between us and them nonetheless.  It's more convenient to dismiss the idea and stick with scientific bias than to explore the other possibilities, however distant.  I've interacted with my voices for a long time and it has been my assumption that they don't want to be revealed to the public for whatever reasons.  And yet they do choose to reveal themselves at least in part to the mentally ill.  That's a safeguard for them because the mentally ill have in the past and now not been taken seriously, though I believe that is changing the more the mentally ill, such as myself, speak up.

The question remains in my mind why these spirits/beings either create mental illness in individuals or take advantage of genetic/psychological/social tendencies towards the illness.  It seems to come back to the miracle of biology, of life.  I don't believe in human telepathy, but I do believe in alien telepathy.  It's the stuff of science fiction I know, but once so was the idea of flying machines and computers.  Recall once it was common knowledge that the world was flat and the sun revolved around the earth.  It's the brave individual who can come forward to speak an unpopular truth.  And really, who would want to consider what I say if it means that another non human life form can get inside our minds?  That's a threatening thought for the most stable of persons.  It no longer threatens me because I have established a compassionate relationship with these beings and I believe they are trying in some very challenging ways to help this world.  God works in mysterious ways and so do these beings who I believe are guided by a higher power.  I believe the whole universe and all the life in it is ultimately being guided.  But for all my beliefs, I do not know what happens after death.  Somehow I think these beings do know, but are either forbidden or unable to reveal it.  I sit with the fact that I don't know and may never know, at least not in this lifetime.
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