Posts Tagged ‘culture of mental illness’

Documentary about current practices in Psychiatry

(I’ve reblogged this documentary because I believe with all my heart that psychiatry needs to evolve in radical ways.  I am personally very distraught by the care that is available to people, like my family, who do not have the financial means to access private care and/or are without support from extended family, leaving ‘us’ with only one option, which is the current practices in modern-day America’s mental healthcare system).

Everything Matters

The producer of this film, Lise Zumwalt,  is looking for funding to continue making it. See here and donate please, even a small amount.

Powerful commentary and documentation on the coercive nature of psychiatry. 

If you’re not aware of just how brutal and coercive psychiatry can be, you should really watch this. This may seem extreme to those who’ve not seen it happening but it’s very common and the bottom line is psychiatry, in general, at best, is subtly coercive. Drugs are generally presented as necessary rather than one, often far less than ideal, possibility for treatment.

CLINICAL SUMMARY: THAT’S CRAZY is the story of Eric and two others who are on the frontlines of a revolution in mental health. They are part of a new phenomenon – a growing number of people who say we need to rethink mental illness. The critics are the patients.

STATUS: Eric, a genetics major…

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Green Healing ~ Heart and Soul

Image of pretty lilac woodland Phlox blooming

Woodland Phlox

I saw my son’s heart while we were working together in the gardens yesterday.  It was beautiful!  Some people have a green thumb, which I believe my son has, but he also has a green heart.

I saw it when he watered the beds where we planted tiny carrot and lettuce seeds last week.  And of course in the bed of Bok Choy.

in horticulture we thrive

BoK Choy coming along

I saw it when he pulled a few weeds from our special bed where the little lizard used to live.  (I guess my cute little friend went on to some greens without gardeners).

one spot so powerful!

Our Special Therapy Garden

I saw his spirit shining when I later looked at the photos I took during class, which included the potted Cacti he made during the first class.  That pot continues to show me his spirit.  It grows on it’s own.  It’s easy for him to have this potted plant, which isn’t the case for all of us.  Some of us have a hard time keeping them alive, much less seeing them thrive without effort.

in horticulture, we thrive

Easy does it...

The horticulture therapist and I had a chance to chat a bit after the earlier week’s class.  My son didn’t feel like going that day and I had gone alone.  “He has so much heart and soul,”  she remarked.

People often say that about my son.  I often forget to remember what is right, when sometimes it feels like a lot is wrong.  It’s easy, I guess, to focus on what I can help change or make better, than it is to spend time being grateful and enjoying all that is okay and good.

working in the beautiful Mother of the therapy gardens

Heart and Soul in the Garden

My son is a quiet person now.  He doesn’t engage in conversation the way he did growing up, which was enthusiastically with almost everyone he met.   This change has been very difficult for me to accept.

Psychiatry suggests that his frequent silence is a symptom and I must admit that ever since he was diagnosed with a mental illness, I believed this was true.  I’ve believed many things that today I am seriously questioning.

I believe my son has a lot to say.  I believe he has been silenced for a long time.  I believe in the right environment he could and would thrive.

Times are changing in the mental healthcare arena.   There is a new language used to talk about madness.  We are finally starting to acknowledge that matters of the heart matter.  The spirit and soul of a person matters.

I’m glad to be alive and a part of the conversation.  Honestly, I didn’t think I would be.

I dream of access to healing and rehabilitation centers, and organizations created to help people who live to a different beat have meaningful work and be able to make valuable contributions in community.

I don’t know if my dreams and hopes will be realized in my life, but a new conversation has begun!

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  Feel free to leave a comment and I hope you also have some ‘Green Healing’ days.

smiling at you

Schizophrenic is an outdated word

The last time I heard a medical professional use the word, “schizophrenic,” was while I was having tests done at the pulmonary clinic.  The nice man who administered the tests had worked at our state mental institution more than twenty years ago.

He told me that he had loved his job there and also spoke tenderly about the patients he got to know while he worked there.  He told me a few stories and then he said the word, schizophrenic.   He hadn’t used it in a derogatory manner but it still surprised me.  I didn’t say anything to him because I assumed that it was a commonly used label — back then.

Hollywood still uses the word.  I’m surprised when I hear the word used in movies made within the past decade,  but then lots of things surprise me.

Not everyone has a family member who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, so most people don’t know what it is like to love someone who can be completely and wholly defined with one word.

I think about how I would like it if people called me a fibromyalgic, or a Chronic Fatigueic, or a depressive, the latter label of which some people actually do use.

Illnesses such as diabetes doesn’t bring with it a mound of stigma when someone says, he is a diabetic.   Nobody runs away or gets afraid.  The label diabetic doesn’t define a person the way schizophrenic does.

Another word I think ought to be left for history is schizoid, particularly and especially when it is used by people who are not medical professionals because it is so often used in a derogatory manner.

I put the person first, which is what my cultural anthropology professor/mentor taught me to do.

“People are not their illnesses,” she would say.  “Always put the person first,” she told us.

I would have never imagined that not too far into the future, after my having taken the classes, that my son would be diagnosed with an illness that is not only misunderstood, but is completely and totally stigmatizing.

The label of schizophrenia alone stigmatizes, marginalizes, otherizes, and all the other ‘izes used in cultural anthropology.

The word, schizophrenic, is even worse.

If a person is schizophrenic can he or she be anything else?  Doesn’t it pretty much define a person?

The same goes for, schizoid.  I know psychiatrists use it but personally, I cannot stand the word.

Saying schizophrenic and schizoid takes away the person and leaves nothing for thought except the label, which is the only thing these words are — labels.

I say he or she has schizophrenia, or, he or she has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

It isn’t about being politically correct.  In my mind, it is about being educated and/or thoughtful.

Put the person first.  My son is a human being.  He is an artist.  He is a student of Marshall Arts.  He is a son, a grandson, a nephew, a dog owner, a good friend, a wonderful person, and he is challenged with a thought disorder, the latter of which unfortunately has an ugly name.

First and foremost — he is a person.

From Art to Antidepressants

The best part about the recovery center was that my mother was there, and alive, which was the only thing I could accept.  The next best part was that she was happy there.

The west side of the long one-story brick building was the arts and crafts room.  Big windows and wide glass doors offered patients a clear view of the pretty Pine trees that surrounded the hospital. 

I remember taking afternoon naps in my parents bedroom while my mother was away, which seemed like forever to me.  I cried when I looked out of her bedroom window where I could see my grandmother’s front porch.   I loved that porch, but without my mother, nothing was the same.

The few visits we made to see her were like gold to me.  Nothing was more valuable than my time with her, especially after that awful night when the ambulance came to our home.

The long wooden table where my mother’s spirit and creativity thrived appeared enormous… and a wonderful fantasy land for a child’s mind.

“This is what I’m making,” she told me as she showed me her end of the long wooden art table.  I could tell it was her work area.  Her art pieces and tools were colorful and organized.  Her first project included small figures, some not yet painted, which became my older brother’s Chess set.

My mother speaks fondly of her short time there.  She talks about how she was completely withdrawn until she finally expressed anger in a group therapy session.  She speaks of the kind counselors and how each of them had been through similar experiences as she had.  She talks about the art and crafts she made, the nurse whom she came to like and the good friend she made during her stay.  We don’t often talk about this time in our lives, but once in a while, the subject comes up.  Like the vitamin she remembers taking.

“You should ask your doctor about that vitamin,” she’ll tell me.  “It would make you eat and gain weight.  It was a big black pill,” she’ll say, but I’ve never met a doctor who knows what kind of vitamin it might have been.  I know it was not an antidepressant.  She said they didn’t give her medication.  Just that one vitamin a day.  Clearly, it was the people, Mother’s art and time for herself that helped her heal.

My very favorite of the crafts she created while there was a village of elves.   An odd formation of drift wood served as the foundation, as Earth is for us humans. 

Elf reading and relaxing in the wood

Elfin Oak

She had crafted and painted each elf into a unique character.  They lived in a magical fantasy land, but it was easy for me to pretend their world was as real as mine.

The elves had everything they needed.  Families, food, stores and friends, all of which my mother had meticulously created.   Their faces were full of joy.  The village was surely a happy place.  One elf carried a bucket of water and another a bundle of sticks.  The child elves played with toys.  Life seemed to work in the village of elves.   I dreamed of living there.

For some reason, even though I’ve asked several times throughout my life how it happened and have been told, the details of how the village was destroyed have never stuck in my mind.

One day after school, I discovered the village on the ground beside our front porch steps in more pieces than my eight year old mind could process.  I don’t like to think about that.

On my bookshelf, as I write, there are two emerald-green ceramic praying hands that she made during her recovery.  I cherish the hands, even though I usually keep them behind other objects and books because they still, sometimes, remind me of what happened that night she had to go away. 

My mother finally came home, but our lives were never the same afterward.  My parents eventually divorced and I went to live with Mother.

I think about the wonderful crafts my mother has made since then.  I have a framed picture of a little girl wearing a hat and holding a kitten (a cross-stitching pattern from a cover of the Saturday Evening Post) that took Mother an entire year to complete and nearly that long to save the money for the frame.  I adore and love my gift.  She made each of her children, after we grew up, a different picture.  I like mine the most.

My mother is a talented creative person.  I still have a red velvet evening gown she made for my Barbie doll.  She made our childhood clothes.  She made my cheerleading uniform.  It was the early ’70’s and short skirts were popular, so she shortened mine a little to make it more stylish.  I loved telling everyone that she made it.

She also made two of the most beautiful prom dresses for my sisters that I’ve ever seen since, but my sisters say they were the only girls at the prom who were not wearing spaghetti straps.  I was too young to understand how this made any difference, since they were the most beautiful dresses I’d ever seen in my life.

Mother worked every day hand-stitching pearls and sequins on the dresses.  One was a light pink and the other a shimmering pale green.  My sisters were beautiful and in those dresses, they were prettier than any of my dolls.

I watched and anticipated with great excitement the day I would see my pretty sisters in those dresses.   Unfortunately, my daddy had a shotgun waiting for their dates when they pulled into our driveway.   My sisters had to run in those elegant dresses out our back door through the cow pasture to meet their dates at the other end of our road.

So, you see, my mother had a hard life, which is how she ended up at the treatment center.  She was almost lost to us that night, before the men in the white coats came to save her life.  One of them bent down,  looked into my eyes and said, “Your mother is going to live.  You saved her life.”

I wish there were still places like the recovery center under the Pines where people could go when they are in great despair.  Nowadays, when you go to a hospital for a mental or emotional problem, unless you can afford a private place, you are treated more like a prisoner than a patient.

Your rights that have been taken away will be put in your face if you dare stray from compliance or attempt to have a say in the matter of your treatment; a say that somehow rubs a doctor or nurse in the wrong way.

It’s all about which drug they can get you on as quickly as possible.   Things have changed, that’s for sure.

I think there are definitely good changes — yet many are to change what should never occur in the first place, such as the patient abuse going on within the confines of our modern-day psychiatric institutions/hospitals.

Other outdated approaches need to be reinstated, such as personal exploration through art and friends, which I believe can be as beneficial as any type of treatment and without bad side-effects.   Science has told us they have seen that friendship changes brain chemistry. 

The ‘staff’ who worked at the mental health treatment centers were true counselors in the sense that they were recovered alcoholics or had survived a breakdown.  They had been where their patients were, so they understood.

Today, the former oasis under the Pines is remodeled.  They don’t have the big arts and crafts room anymore.   And vitamins?  I don’t hardly think so, as my mother would say.


Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.

PHOTO IMAGE of Elfin Oak via Flickr by StarrGazr

About the image, from Wikipedia:

The Elfin Oak is a 900-year-old tree stump in Kensington Gardens in London, carved and painted to look as though elves, gnomes and small animals are living in its bark.