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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 July 16, 2019

    7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

    7 Ways to Get Rid of Negative Energy and Become Positive

    Negativity affects ourselves and everyone around us. It limits our potential to become something great and live a fulfilling, purposeful life. Negativity has a tangible effect on our health, too. Research has shown that people who cultivate negative energy experience more stress, more sickness, and less opportunity over the course of their lives than those who choose to live positively.

    When we make a decision to become positive, and follow that decision up with action, we will begin to encounter situations and people that are also positive. The negative energy gets edged out by all positive experiences. It’s a snowball effect.

    Although negative and positive thoughts will always exist, the key to becoming positive is to limit the amount of negativity that we experience by filling ourselves up with more positivity.

    Here are some ways to get rid of negativity and become more positive.

    1. Become Grateful for Everything

    When life is all about us, it’s easy to believe that we deserve what we have. An attitude of entitlement puts us at the center of the universe and sets up the unrealistic expectation that others should cater to us, our needs, and our wants. This vain state of existence is a surefire way to set yourself up for an unfulfilled life of negativity.

    People living in this sort of entitlement are “energy suckers”–they are always searching for what they can get out of a situation. People that don’t appreciate the nuances of their lives live in a constant state of lacking. And it’s really difficult to live a positive life this way.

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    When we begin to be grateful and appreciate everything in our lives–from the small struggles that make us better, to the car that gets us from A to B every day–we shift our attitude from one of selfishness, to one of appreciation. This appreciation gets noticed by others, and a positive harmony begins to form in our relationships.

    We begin to receive more of that which we are grateful for, because we’ve opened ourselves up to the idea of receiving, instead of taking. This will make your life more fulfilling, and more positive.

    2. Laugh More, Especially at Yourself

    Life gets busy, our schedules fill up, we get into relationships, and work can feel task oriented and routine-driven at times. Being human can feel more like being a robot. But having this work-driven, serious attitude often results in negative and performance oriented thinking.

    Becoming positive means taking life less seriously and letting yourself off the hook. This is the only life that you get to live, why not lighten up your mood?

    Laughter helps us become positive by lightening our mood and reminding us not to take life so seriously. Are you sensitive to light sarcasm? Do you have trouble laughing at jokes? Usually, people who are stressed out and overly serious get most offended by sarcasm because their life is all work and no play.

    If we can learn to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes, life will become more of an experiment in finding out what makes us happy. And finding happiness means finding positivity.

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    3. Help Others

    Negativity goes hand in hand with selfishness. People that live only for themselves have no higher purpose in their lives. If the whole point of this world is only to take care of yourself and no one else, the road to a long-term fulfillment and purpose is going to be a long one.

    Positivity accompanies purpose. The most basic way to create purpose and positivity in your life is to begin doing things for others. Start small; open the door for the person in front of you at Starbucks or ask someone how their day was before telling them about yours.

    Helping others will give you an intangible sense of value that will translate into positivity. And people might just appreciate you in the process.

    4. Change Your Thinking

    We can either be our best coach or our best enemy. Change starts from within. If you want to become more positive, change the wording of your thoughts. We are the hardest on ourselves, and a stream of negative self talk is corrosive to a positive life.

    The next time you have a negative thought, write it down and rephrase it with a positive spin. For example, change a thought like, “I can’t believe I did so horribly on the test–I suck.” to “I didn’t do as well as I hoped to on this test. But I know I’m capable and I’ll do better next time.”

    Changing our self-talk is powerful.

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    5. Surround Yourself with Positive People

    We become most like the people that we surround ourselves with. If our friend group is full of negative energy-suckers and drama queens, we will emulate that behavior and become like them. It is very difficult to become more positive when the people around us don’t support or demonstrate positive behavior.

    As you become more positive, you’ll find that your existing friends will either appreciate the new you or they will become resistant to your positive changes. This is a natural response.

    Change is scary; but cutting out the negative people in your life is a huge step to becoming more positive. Positive people reflect and bounce their perspectives onto one another. Positivity is a step-by-step process when you do it solo, but a positive group of friends can be an escalator.

    6. Get into Action

    Negative thoughts can be overwhelming and challenging to navigate. Negativity is usually accompanied by a “freak-out” response, especially when tied to relationships, people and to worrying about the future. This is debilitating to becoming positive and usually snowballs into more worry, more stress and more freak-outs.

    Turn the negative stress into positive action. The next time you’re in one of these situations, walk away and take a break. With your eyes closed, take a few deep breaths. Once you’re calm, approach the situation or problem with a pen and pad of paper. Write out four or five actions or solutions to begin solving the problem.

    Taking yourself out of the emotionally charged negative by moving into the action-oriented positive will help you solve more problems rationally and live in positivity

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    7. Take Full Responsibility, Stop Being the Victim

    You are responsible for your thoughts.

    People that consistently believe that things happen to them handicap themselves to a victim mentality. This is a subtle and deceptive negative thought pattern. Phrases like “I have to work” or “I can’t believe he did that to me” are indicators of a victim mentality. Blaming circumstances and blaming others only handicaps our decision to change something negative into something positive.

    Taking full responsibility for your life, your thoughts and your actions is one of the biggest steps in creating a more positive life. We have unlimited potential within to create our own reality, change our life, and change our thoughts. When we begin to really internalize this, we discover that no one can make us feel or do anything. We choose our emotional and behavioral response to people and circumstances.

    Make positive choices in favor of yourself.

    “Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny” ― Lao Tzu

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    Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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