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, April 10, 2012

Parallels With My Anti-Psychiatry Peers

I have come upon the anti-psychiatry movement late.  I've only just started reading some blogs about it.  There's a lot of outcry about the perils of being medicated, some of which I certainly sympathize with, but what I was really looking for was a list of alternatives to taking the medications.  I just found one large site with lots and lots of information on it, it's called Beyond Meds: Alternatives to Psychiatry.  I've only read a bit of it, but plan to return and continue my research.  I was fascinated to find that I have been going on a parallel course because some of the alternatives that are suggested are Mindfulness, Meditation, Yoga and viewing one's illness as actually a psycho-spiritual journey.  On one of the sites that I stopped at they even were pushing books by Adyashanti!  I also read an article by a woman who suffered from Bi-Polar disorder who came to embrace Tibetan Buddhism and mind training, while working in a peer-run support group and not taking the medications.

In terms of spiritual orientation these anti-psychiatry people appear to by "my" people.  I certainly do accept them as such because we have been to the same hard places.  And I am all for exploring alternatives to the medications.  If people don't explore, they will never find ways to develop better treatments to complex psychotic illnesses.  And without exploration, there's not even the possibility of discovering a cure.  It seems more and more likely that community outreach programs and peer run support groups will be the wave of the future.  God, I hope so.  I know I was meant to be a part of a mental health support group.  The great thing about support groups is that everyone is welcome from the acutely ill to those in partial recovery to those in full recovery.  There's so much we can learn from one another, but we have to get into each other's hearts and minds and learn how to be there for each other.

I want to believe that following a spiritual path of being Mindful and training the mind to study itself without judgment could help to treat acute psychosis.  I want to believe the same for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and peer run support groups and diet, nutrition and exercise programs, but I honestly don't know yet.  Maybe individualized combinations of treatments could really address the core symptoms enough to treat acute psychosis without medication or with medication at a very small dosage.  All I know is that people need to get organized and that's what the anti-psychiatry movement appears to be doing, working both in communities and online.  I know I need the help in my community;  medication and individual therapy have not been enough for me -- I need to meet peers face to face.  I've felt frustration about this for so long and disappointment in myself for not having the courage and stamina to start up a support group in my town.  I'm hoping this will change this year. I talk a good game about peer support because I got so much out of going to the Al-Anon group, but the group is just not appropriate from people with psychotic disorders.

And I do use the word "psychotic" and "disorders" as well as the word "schizophrenia" because I do see the phenomenon of psychosis as an expression of imbalance and illness, though I know it can be a means to personal growth; it can also lead to suicide.  As I wrote in my last post, it is the people in the thrall of acute psychosis who most concern me and that is why I still believe that medication should be an option at least for a period of time.  At the same time, I'm all for engaging individuals in various forms of treatment in addition to the medications.  Build a support network, and work on your own, too, while taking advantage of what the medications can do for you and then decide whether to continue with the medications or not.  The medications are imperfect; there's no doubt about that, but it's important to use as many options as you can, especially when you are suffering so much.

If I find that there are viable alternatives to medications, ones that really work to treat psychosis, I think I might consider reducing my medications, mainly because I'm on high doses and have been for 10 years and I don't know if that's good for me or not.  I'm still afraid of falling back into acute illness.  Most of my days have challenges in them.  I am not recovered, but I will continue to wave the flag of RECOVERY for any newcomers.  Recovery, in all its forms and gradations, is possible.  That's very important to realize.  No matter how bad it gets, and it can get pretty bad, you will not be stuck in a hellish place indefinitely, but you do need to motivate yourself to reach out to others, to share your story and to do what you need to do in order to take care of yourself.

The most important point I can make here is that we, who have suffered from psychotic disorders, are all peers regardless of whether we take the medications or try an alternative route.  We need to stand united or at least make bridges to meet each other across the sometimes great divide.  I deeply appreciate people on both sides, but really, we are the same with similar stuggles and successes.  Today I read a blog entry by Charles on his blog Mental Health Recovery and in it he writes about how you have to let go of blaming in order to recover and to "be positive in the face of negativity".  I think we've got to work to understand each other better and learn to be extremely tolerant of just those people who cause us to feel self-protective and defensive.  Check yourself out and see what you find.  I find the problem is usually within my own self and that I have a lot to learn from different people and points of view.
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