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15 Truths About Schizophrenia Many People May Not Know

15 Truths About Schizophrenia Many People May Not Know

You Can Help A Schizophrenic

    “An individual having unusual difficulties in coping with his environment struggles and kicks up the dust, as it were. I have used the figure of a fish caught on a hook: his gyrations must look peculiar to other fish that don’t understand the circumstances; but his splashes are not his affliction, they are his effort to get rid of his affliction and as every fisherman knows these efforts may succeed.” –Karl Menninger

    One per cent of the US population has “schizophrenia,” a term referring to a “mental illness” in which people interpret reality “abnormally.” I am using quotation marks to signify that these words contain much that is controversial. It is the medical profession and the related pharmaceutical industry that defines people in this way to be better able to control or treat them. In the extreme case, if a person is “harmful to self or others,” as judged by a doctor, they can be involuntarily incarcerated in a mental hospital. Life in mental hospitals has been accurately portrayed in the popular movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Malidoma Some, a shaman and cultural bridge to the west from an African tribe, was shocked when he visited a fellow student who was placed in one. In Some’s tribe, a person showing signs of what we call “mental illness” would be trained to be a healer. The more appropriate term might be “spiritual emergency” and “spiritual emergence”.

    My Experience As a Paranoid Schizophrenic

    Here is my experience of being a “paranoid schizophrenic;” how I managed to break the cycle of hospitalizations and how I learned what it was like to be stigmatized. In the late ’60’s, I found my Ph.D. program in microbiology to be boring in comparison to the new emerging counterculture. I was involved with alternative schools, radical politics and experimented with psychedelics. Those experiments revealed darker sides of experience with such force that I became aware of realities I was unable to comprehend. When I was interviewed by a psychiatrist, he recommended I sign in to a mental hospital. He was an authority, and I saw no alternatives, so I signed in. It was there I made my decision to drop out of the Ph.D. program. I got out of the hospital a month or two later, but continued to have episodes that brought me back over a period of ten years, until I decided not to go to this extreme ever again.

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    I stopped taking the medications, did not participate in outreach, got an apprenticeship with an artist (which created a new identity for me) and saw an excellent psychologist who pointed out the origin and cause of my problems. She gave me tools that finally helped me out of that mess. In between those hospitalizations, I applied for about twenty jobs and was unsuccessful in landing one, even though employment was not so scarce in those days. There was no freedom of information act then, and I did not have access to my personal file from the university. Being suspicious, I had the file sent to a friend, pretending that I was applying for a job with him. “Don was a campus goodie-goodie”. “Don was brilliant but remote”. These were the “recommendations” from my professors. I felt that this behavior was immoral. Why didn’t they just tell me that they could not give me a recommendation? My adviser claimed that I could never be a teacher—that I should consider working in laboratories instead. Since “schizophrenia” is so widespread, yet so misunderstood, I am listing what a sufferer might want based on my experiences, and also from a landmark publication, Understanding Psychosis and Schizophrenia: Why people sometimes hear voices, believe things that others find strange, or appear out of touch with reality …and what can help.

    1. They want to be treated like anyone else—as human beings with basic human rights

    Freedom, clean air, water and food, and a decent place to live.

    2. They do not want to be judged, pitied or given sympathy

    They want to be understood, with compassion and empathy.

    3. They want to develop a shared understanding of what’s going on and how their behavior affects others involved

    4. They want to be treated with respect, kindness and support

    They want to be accepted—to be loved and supported, and have their views and opinions heard.

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    5. They want others to authentically share their own perceptions and experiences of life with them

    Use “I” statements instead of projecting. Rather than saying: “You are acting crazy”, say: “I feel that your behavior is inappropriate because . . .”

    6. They do not want to be labeled or stigmatized

    They want people to realize that “psychotic” experience is continuous with ordinary experience and is part of the human condition, not an “illness.” They do not want to be considered “ill,” but as unique. They do not want to be thought of as “stuck with an affliction for life.” To be crazy in this insane world is the new normal.

    7. They want regular communication with others

    They want to be able to express how they are feeling. They do not want to be told that their beliefs or perceptions are wrong or imaginary. Instead, they prefer to hear that the other person sees things differently.

    8. They want help (sometimes not treatment but guidance) in order to take responsibility for their behaviors and for their lives

    They do not want to be told what to do, especially by professionals. They do want to develop a shared understanding and description of their problems and hear suggestions on what might help.

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    9. They want an advocate on their behalf, if needed, to mediate between them and mental health staff

    10. They want help in regaining their independence after a crisis

    And they want this help to be at choice and not forced.

    11. They want help in remembering the fun things in life

    They want a partner to go out with and do ordinary things.

    12. They want to be given the opportunity to explain how they understand their experiences and how friends and family might help

    13. They do not want to be identified as their problems

    They want to be seen as a person who is not totally at fault for having them.

    14. They don’t want to be isolated

    They want to meet with others with similar experiences in self-help groups and other settings to feel less alone and learn about what can help.

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    15. They want to take control of their recovery and achieve their hopes and dreams

    Since the incidence of “schizophrenia” is so high, many people have friends and relatives who carry this label. But these types of problems know no boundaries. Many famous successful people have suffered, too. The movie, A Beautiful Mind, tells the story of John Nash, the Nobel Prize winning mathematician, who died recently in a car accident. The football player for the Green Bay Packers, Lionel Drawbridge, also suffered with the “illness.” Musicians known to have it include Peter Green of Fleetwood Mac, Jim Gordon with the Beach Boys and Alice Cooper and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. And take note of a renowned artist who was second in line to Andy Warhol, Yayoi Kusama, “Princess of Polka Dots”, who’s been living in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo since 1977. She recently was featured in the Tate Gallery. Now that you know how common this affliction is, and how you can be of help when you encounter it, I hope you will act on the ideas and spread the word of what “schizophrenia” really is and what it is not.

    Featured photo credit: A man with schizophrenia/http://healthy1st.net/ via healthy1st.net

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    Last Updated on September 18, 2020

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    For the original article by Celestine: 13 Helping Points When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    “We all have problems. The way we solve them is what makes us different.” ~Unknown

    “It’s not stress that kills us, it is our reaction to it.” – Hans Selye

    Have you ever experienced moments when things just don’t go your way? For example, losing your keys, accidentally spilling your drink, waking up late, missing your buses/trains, forgetting to bring your things, and so on?

    You’re not alone. All of us, myself included, experience times when things don’t go as we expect.

    Here is my guide on how to deal with daily setbacks.

    1. Take a step back and evaluate

    When something bad happens, take a step back and evaluate the situation. Some questions to ask yourself:

    1. What is the problem?
    2. Are you the only person facing this problem in the world today?
    3. How does this problem look like at an individual level? A national level? On a global scale?
    4. What’s the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a result of this?
    5. How is it going to impact your life in the next 1 year? 5 years? 10 years?

    Doing this exercise is not to undermine the problem or disclaiming responsibility, but to consider different perspectives, so you can adopt the best approach for it. Most problems we encounter daily may seem like huge issues when they crop up, but most, if not all, don’t have much impact in our life beyond that day.

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    2. Vent if you have to, but don’t linger on the problem

    If you feel very frustrated and need to let off some steam, go ahead and do that. Talk to a friend, complain, crib about it, or scream at the top of your lungs if it makes you happy.

    At the same time, don’t get caught up with venting. While venting may temporarily relieve yourself, it’s not going to solve the problem ultimately. You don’t want to be an energy vampire.

    Vent if there’s a need to, but do it for 15 to 20 minutes. Then move on.

    3. Realize there are others out there facing this too

    Even though the situation may be frustrating, you’re not alone. Remember there are almost 7 billion people in the world today, and chances are that other people have faced the same thing before too. Knowing it’s not just you helps you to get out of a self-victimizing mindset.

    4. Process your thoughts/emotions

    Process your thoughts/emotions with any of the four methods:

    1. Journal. Write your unhappiness in a private diary or in your blog. It doesn’t have to be formal at all – it can be a brain dump on rough paper or new word document. Delete after you are done.
    2. Audio taping. Record yourself as you talk out what’s on your mind. Tools include tape recorder, your PC (Audacity is a freeware for recording/editing audio) and your mobile (most mobiles today have audio recording functions). You can even use your voice mail for this. Just talking helps you to gain awareness of your emotions. After recording, play back and listen to what you said. You might find it quite revealing.
    3. Meditation. At its simplest form, meditation is just sitting/lying still and observing your reality as it is – including your thoughts and emotions. Some think that it involves some complex mambo-jumbo, but it doesn’t.
    4. Talking to someone. Talking about it with someone helps you work through the issue. It also gets you an alternate viewpoint and consider it from a different angle.

    5. Acknowledge your thoughts

    Don’t resist your thoughts, but acknowledge them. This includes both positive and negative thoughts.

    By acknowledging, I mean recognizing these thoughts exist. So if say, you have a thought that says, “Wow, I’m so stupid!”, acknowledge that. If you have a thought that says, “I can’t believe this is happening to me again”, acknowledge that as well.

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    Know that acknowledging the thoughts doesn’t mean you agree with them. It’s simply recognizing the existence of said thoughts so that you can stop resisting yourself and focus on the situation on hand.

    6. Give yourself a break

    If you’re very stressed out by the situation, and the problem is not time sensitive, then give yourself a break. Take a walk, listen to some music, watch a movie, or get some sleep. When you’re done, you should feel a lot more revitalized to deal with the situation.

    7. Uncover what you’re really upset about

    A lot of times, the anger we feel isn’t about the world. You may start off feeling angry at someone or something, but at the depth of it, it’s anger toward yourself.

    Uncover the root of your anger. I have written a five part anger management series on how to permanently overcome anger.

    After that, ask yourself: How can you improve the situation? Go to Step #9, where you define your actionable steps. Our anger comes from not having control on the situation. Sitting there and feeling infuriated is not going to change the situation. The more action we take, the more we will regain control over the situation, the better we will feel.

    8. See this as an obstacle to be overcome

    As Helen Keller once said,

    “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experiences of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”

    Whatever you’re facing right now, see it as an obstacle to be overcome. In every worthy endeavor, there’ll always be countless obstacles that emerge along the way. These obstacles are what separate the people who make it, and those who don’t. If you’re able to push through and overcome them, you’ll emerge a stronger person than before. It’ll be harder for anything to get you down in the future.

    9. Analyze the situation – Focus on actionable steps

    In every setback, there are going to be things that can’t be reversed since they have already occurred. You want to focus on things that can still be changed (salvageable) vs. things that have already happened and can’t be changed. The only time the situation changes is when you take steps to improve it. Rather than cry over spilt milk, work through your situation:

    1. What’s the situation?
    2. What’s stressing you about this situation?
    3. What are the next steps that’ll help you resolve them?
    4. Take action on your next steps!

    After you have identified your next steps, act on them. The key here is to focus on the actionable steps, not the inactionable steps. It’s about regaining control over the situation through direct action.

    10. Identify how it occurred (so it won’t occur again next time)

    A lot of times we react to our problems. The problem occurs, and we try to make the best out of what has happened within the context. While developing a healthy coping mechanism is important (which is what the other helping points are on), it’s also equally important, if not more, to understand how the problem arose. This way, you can work on preventing it from taking place next time, vs. dealing reactively with it.

    Most of us probably think the problem is outside of our control, but reality is most of the times it’s fully preventable. It’s just a matter of how much responsibility you take over the problem.

    For example, for someone who can’t get a cab for work in the morning, he/she may see the problem as a lack of cabs in the country, or bad luck. However, if you trace to the root of the problem, it’s probably more to do with (a) Having unrealistic expectations of the length of time to get a cab. He/she should budget more time for waiting for a cab next time. (b) Oversleeping, because he/she was too tired from working late the previous day. He/she should allocate enough time for rest next time. He/she should also pick up better time management skills, so as to finish work in lesser time.

    11. Realize the situation can be a lot worse

    No matter how bad the situation is, it can always be much worse. A plus point vs. negative point analysis will help you realize that.

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    12. Do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it

    No matter how bad your situation may seem, do your best, but don’t kill yourself over it. Life is too beautiful to worry so much over daily issues. Take a step back (#1), give yourself a break if you need to (#6), and do what you can within your means (#9). Everything else will unfold accordingly. Worrying too much about the outcome isn’t going to change things or make your life any better.

    13. Pick out the learning points from the encounter

    There’s something to learn from every encounter. What have you learned from this situation? What lessons have you taken away?

    After you identify your learning points, think about how you’re going to apply them moving forward. With this, you’ve clearly gained something from this encounter. You’ve walked away a stronger, wiser, better person, with more life lessons to draw from in the future.

    Get the manifesto version of this article: [Manifesto] What To Do When Things Don’t Go Your Way

    Featured photo credit: Alice Donovan Rouse via unsplash.com

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