Serious Mental Illness Blog

Official blog for LIU Post's Clinical Psychology Doctorate SMI Specialty Concentration

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Herschel Walker on mental health issues: ‘You can overcome’By Max Marbut, Jax Daily Record
With a keynote address by former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker, Jacksonville Community Council Inc. unveiled Tuesday “Unlocking the Pieces,” its inquiry into the state of mental health care.
Walker was chosen to headline the event because he suffers from dissociative identity disorder.
He said at a news conference he didn’t realize he had undergone a negative personality change until he retired from football.
At UGA, he set the NCAA freshman rushing record and earned consensus All-American honors in three consecutive seasons. Walker set 10 NCAA records, 15 Southeastern Conference records and 30 Georgia all-time records. In his junior year, he earned the 1982 Heisman Trophy.
That led to a professional career, with the 1983 New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Walker joined the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys in 1986, when he led the league in rushing and was selected All-Pro.
He then played with the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles. Walker returned to the Cowboys in 1996 and retired in 1997.
Walker said he kept a journal for years. When he took time to review what he had written, he said he was shocked.
“A lot of my writing was about killing and death,” Walker said.
A devout Christian all his life, he first turned to his pastor for help, but discovered faith alone was not the answer.
“My pastor said that prayer is good, but sometimes, you’ve got to get up and do something,” Walker said.
After seeking medical treatment, he was diagnosed with DID, similar to multiple personality disorder.
Through therapy, Walker learned he had endured much pain as a child when he was bullied and had to live with a speech impediment.
That pain was repressed and didn’t manifest itself until years later.
“I didn’t deal with the pain I suffered,” he said. “I tell people today, if you have pain, deal with it then.”
Walker’s journals attracted the attention of Simon & Schuster, which used much of the material to publish “Breaking Free,” a memoir in which Walker shares the story of his life and how he copes with his illness.
After his friends and people who knew him from his football career read the book, they treated him differently. That’s when Walker realized that having a mental health issue comes with a stigma.
“Thay ran away from me like I was a vampire,” Walker said. “Now, they’re coming back. When I walk through an airport, people want to talk to me. Not about football, but because they have a problem.”
Walker said he was in Jacksonville for the release of the JCCI report in hopes of giving people hope.
“There is help out there. Do not look down on yourself,” he said. “I’m here to tell you it’s not going to be easy, but you’ve got to know that you can overcome. What has happened to me has made me better.”
The JCCI report was prepared after a committee of more than 80 members chaired by United Way of Northeast Florida President and CEO Michelle Braun. They worked for six months with representatives from local mental health care and social service providers to not only analyze the state of mental health care in Northeast Florida, but to develop a plan of action to improve access and services for people who need them.
The study determined “mental illness is pervasive in Northeast Florida” and it affects people of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientations and socio-economic standings.
While anyone can be vulnerable to mental health issues, some groups are more likely to be affected. Those include people living in poverty, military veterans, victims of crime, people who are homeless and people in non-dominant social groups such as women, people of color and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The committee recommends improving advocacy and community engagement in order to better provide services for people with mental health illness; better coordinating care among agencies and the medical community; and increasing the number of mental health professionals practicing in the area; and improving the public’s awareness of mental health needs and services available.
Ben Warner, JCCI president and CEO, said releasing the report is the first step in the community taking action to improve local mental health care.
“Now comes the implementation phase,” he said.
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Herschel Walker on mental health issues: ‘You can overcome’
By Max Marbut, Jax Daily Record

With a keynote address by former University of Georgia and NFL running back Herschel Walker, Jacksonville Community Council Inc. unveiled Tuesday “Unlocking the Pieces,” its inquiry into the state of mental health care.

Walker was chosen to headline the event because he suffers from dissociative identity disorder.

He said at a news conference he didn’t realize he had undergone a negative personality change until he retired from football.

At UGA, he set the NCAA freshman rushing record and earned consensus All-American honors in three consecutive seasons. Walker set 10 NCAA records, 15 Southeastern Conference records and 30 Georgia all-time records. In his junior year, he earned the 1982 Heisman Trophy.

That led to a professional career, with the 1983 New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League. Walker joined the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys in 1986, when he led the league in rushing and was selected All-Pro.

He then played with the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles. Walker returned to the Cowboys in 1996 and retired in 1997.

Walker said he kept a journal for years. When he took time to review what he had written, he said he was shocked.

“A lot of my writing was about killing and death,” Walker said.

A devout Christian all his life, he first turned to his pastor for help, but discovered faith alone was not the answer.

“My pastor said that prayer is good, but sometimes, you’ve got to get up and do something,” Walker said.

After seeking medical treatment, he was diagnosed with DID, similar to multiple personality disorder.

Through therapy, Walker learned he had endured much pain as a child when he was bullied and had to live with a speech impediment.

That pain was repressed and didn’t manifest itself until years later.

“I didn’t deal with the pain I suffered,” he said. “I tell people today, if you have pain, deal with it then.”

Walker’s journals attracted the attention of Simon & Schuster, which used much of the material to publish “Breaking Free,” a memoir in which Walker shares the story of his life and how he copes with his illness.

After his friends and people who knew him from his football career read the book, they treated him differently. That’s when Walker realized that having a mental health issue comes with a stigma.

“Thay ran away from me like I was a vampire,” Walker said. “Now, they’re coming back. When I walk through an airport, people want to talk to me. Not about football, but because they have a problem.”

Walker said he was in Jacksonville for the release of the JCCI report in hopes of giving people hope.

“There is help out there. Do not look down on yourself,” he said. “I’m here to tell you it’s not going to be easy, but you’ve got to know that you can overcome. What has happened to me has made me better.”

The JCCI report was prepared after a committee of more than 80 members chaired by United Way of Northeast Florida President and CEO Michelle Braun. They worked for six months with representatives from local mental health care and social service providers to not only analyze the state of mental health care in Northeast Florida, but to develop a plan of action to improve access and services for people who need them.

The study determined “mental illness is pervasive in Northeast Florida” and it affects people of all ages, genders, races, sexual orientations and socio-economic standings.

While anyone can be vulnerable to mental health issues, some groups are more likely to be affected. Those include people living in poverty, military veterans, victims of crime, people who are homeless and people in non-dominant social groups such as women, people of color and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The committee recommends improving advocacy and community engagement in order to better provide services for people with mental health illness; better coordinating care among agencies and the medical community; and increasing the number of mental health professionals practicing in the area; and improving the public’s awareness of mental health needs and services available.

Ben Warner, JCCI president and CEO, said releasing the report is the first step in the community taking action to improve local mental health care.

“Now comes the implementation phase,” he said.

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.
Click Here
 to access original SMI Blog content

Filed under herschel walker herschel walker dissociation dissociate dissociative dissociative identity disorder dissociative identity trauma traumatized post traumatic post traumatic stress post traumatic stress disorder disorder diagnosis recover recovery hope mind body brain wellness healthy psychology psychiatry counseling athlete sport sports

156 notes

This Is What Developing Acute Schizophrenia Feels LikeBy Daniel Smith, Vice
A year ago this winter, I began to not recognize myself. 
Sleep was the first thing to change. Progressively, over the course of about two weeks, I began struggling to drift off. As a 24-year-old man with a good supply of hash, this had never been a problem before. It was so odd. Seemingly out of the blue, I’d get into bed at night and not be able to shut off my brain. Thoughts would grow tendrils and loop onto other thoughts, tangling together like a big wall of ivy. Some nights, I’d pull the covers over my head, grab my face hard in my hands, and whisper, “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”
Eventually I would be able to get to sleep, but I’d wake up feeling peculiar, like I had forgotten to do or tell someone something. Hunger wasn’t as aggressive as it usually was during this time, either. Normally I bolt downstairs to pour a heaping bowl of Frosted Flakes the second my eyes open. Instead, I woke each morning with a sick, creeping feeling in my gut. Still, I carried on as normal, thinking I’d just lay off the hash for a bit. That was probably it. I wasn’t panicked. 
I carried on my work at a local wine shop and tried to push what was happening during the night to the back of my mind. I got through the days OK, if slightly bleary-eyed—but looking back now I can see that I had started to struggle with simple conversations. 
If my boss told me to check a delivery, it’d take me a few seconds to process what he was saying, like two or three people had said it at the same time and I couldn’t make out the clear instruction. Looking at morning delivery slips and trying to make sense of them in my head was like trying to make out a tree in the fog—possible, but hard.
Everything felt misty. I started to think that stuff was about to fall all the time—I’d look at a shelf of bottles and see one or two about to topple over, then look again and they’d be fine. I also kept thinking I could hear phones ringing, at all different pitches, even though there were no phones in the warehouse. Again, I wasn’t panicking yet—I just told everyone who asked if I was OK that I wasn’t sleeping well and thought it was all down to that. Sleep deprivation does weird things to people. A friend at work gave me some sleeping pills to try out, and they seemed to help for a bit, even though I’d wake up and feel like my head was full of wool. I stopped caring about going to bars or playing soccer on the weekends. All I wanted to do was sleep. Conversations were too much work. 
I’d say it probably took two months from that initial sleeplessness for me to actually think there was something seriously wrong with me. The thought octopuses, as I ended up calling them, got weirder and weirder at night. I’d have the TV on and start being unable to identify what was noise coming from the screen and what was my own noise. It was frightening. One night, while watchingHomeland (of all the shows), I had what I thought at the time was a panic attack. I knew what a panic attack was because one of the girls I used to go out with had them—she once had to lie down in the movie theater and do deep breathing to stop herself from retching. It was horrible to watch. That night in bed, though, I started trembling like it was freezing cold—only my skin was boiling. My legs shook against the bed sheets and there was this cacophony in my head, like a crowd of people were chatting beside my pillow. Nothing dramatic, just a steady, confusing noise. By the flickering light of the TV, I began to lose my mind. 
I didn’t sleep at all that night. I felt paralyzed. My bedroom door had become the very end of my world, like the paper set Jim Carrey rows into in the final scene of The Truman Show. The noise came and went in waves, but it felt like someone, or something, had replaced my body and mind. It wasn’t me who was too scared to go to the bathroom to piss, so I decided to do it into an empty glass, spilling it all over the floor. It wasn’t me who threw all my bed sheets off, only feeling comfortable completely naked against the bare mattress. It wasn’t me who pressed the tip of a boxcutter into my heel to try and snap myself out of the despair. In that room, as the sun came up and my alarm went off for work, I thought, I need my mom.
Luckily, she was only a staircase away. I hadn’t gotten myself together to move out of home yet—couldn’t afford to, really. I called her from my phone because I thought that if I left my bedroom my insides were going to fall out. I genuinely believed crossing the threshold of my bedroom doorframe into the hallway would make my skull come apart and my bowels fall out of me like a bucket of pig swill. She answered the phone and said, “Oh for goodness sake, Daniel,* stop messing around,” or something similar. I started crying, apparently in big, whooping sobs like a little boy, and heard her throwing her phone on the floor through the ceiling. 
When she opened my door, she gasped. I don’t remember doing it, but apparently I’d pulled apart my TV remotes (I had, like, four of them) and my bare mattress was covered in little circuit boards, piss, and blood (from my heel). I sat there in my underwear, crying, and told her that I’d been “taken over.” She called an ambulance. 
Again, I don’t really remember this properly, but apparently when the paramedics arrived I thought they were both taking pictures of me. I got really angry and tried to punch them. I screamed at one of them, telling him it was against the law to take my photo and that I had rights, all while seated in a pair of soaking wet boxer shorts with blood all over my leg.
All I remember from the drive to the hospital is my mom holding my legs down against the bed, but she says I was screaming that I didn’t want to be driven on the highway because there were people crouched inside the speed cameras. My memories of the hospital that night are colorless flashes of needles, soft voices, and arm restraints. 
All the above is what’s called a psychotic episode, and it’s emblematic of acute schizophrenia—the illness I was diagnosed with. Psychosis is defined as someone having a loss of contact with reality. It can happen quickly, or—most commonly in those who develop schizophrenia—can be a slow burner and then suddenly snap. That’s what happened to me. I was hospitalized for about a week and a half and started on a course of antipsychotic medication immediately. I don’t remember much of this time, either, only that I felt sick a lot and found it hard to talk to anyone. Oh, and that the guy in the room next to me constantly shat himself on purpose. The smell was like the death I felt in my brain.
I remember the day I started to feel like I’d clicked back into reality, when the new chemicals I was taking found their footing in my body and didn’t just make me want to cover my head in blankets and sleep. My brother came in to see me with my mom (they’d been coming in every day but mostly just talked to the doctors and nurses—I was incapable of conversation), and we watched three episodes of Breaking Bad in a row on the iPad in the visitor’s lounge. My mom held it against her knees with one hand, while occasionally stroking the back of my neck with the other. I laughed at something Saul said and felt like I might be getting somewhere, like the curtains that had been drawn on who I once was were starting to flicker. I even ate a full meal that evening, and I’ll now never take mashed potatoes for granted again.
The road to recovery was filled with potholes. Namely, debilitating panic attacks when I had flashes of what had happened weeks previous. But the mental health team at my local NHS hospital were amazing—save a couple of nurses who treated me like a baby. I hated that. Once I was allowed home I had a social worker come and see me every week to check on the medication, ask about what I was doing each day, and encourage me to go for walks with my mom and start talking to my friends again. I’d been too embarrassed to, and thought they wouldn’t understand. Or, worse, just write me off as a nutjob. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My best friend, Sam, said he’d been so worried about me that he actually hadn’t been sleeping at night. Stupid bastard. One by one they all started texting me again—I think they’d been frightened of saying the wrong thing, mostly—and said they couldn’t wait to start playing soccer again, that I’d be back on my skinny legs in no time. It was amazing how mature they all seemed.
The mental health unit arranged a course of outpatient therapy with a straight-talking man called Gregg. The antipsychotics were really sedating for a while, and I often felt like I was wading through molasses, but there was a strange calm in my brain that I’d not felt for months and months. Gregg helped make sense of what had happened to me, teaching me techniques for when panicked thoughts came into my brain about that night when I snapped (he says it’s unhelpful to talk about “losing” your mind—the mind is still there, it just got ill) and how to not live in fear of it happening again. He encouraged me to start seeing my friends again and told me about how the mind doesn’t stay the same, how it’s possible for it to recover, and that the medication had worked so would continue to work, but that I had to be realistic with myself and accept that I had become ill. All I needed was time.
Accepting it was the biggest thing, actually. Frustration is, as I’ve learned, too close to anxiety. On the days when I’d go out for a walk (my mom made me go every afternoon for at least an hour, leaving me on my own halfway through and giving me a task, like buying a pint of milk or some butter) and start thinking about everything, thoughts would flash into my brain: For fuck’s sake, why can’t you just be normal? I had to stop, inhale a few times and say to myself out loud, “I am normal. I just got sick and am having a break.”
Within about six weeks of leaving the hospital, I started going to my friends’ houses again. I always felt a little twinge of discomfort when the TV was too loud, or when everyone talked at once, but I just told them when I felt strange. No one laughed at me. No one pitied me, either, which was amazing. I feel like if one of them had gotten sick like I had, I’d be like an overbearing mother, constantly asking if they were all right. 
Within ten weeks I was back at work part-time. My boss couldn’t have been more sympathetic. Apparently, when I went into the hospital he called my mom to let me know that the job was waiting for me as soon as I felt well enough, and that I could take it at my own pace. Initially this made me angry—I didn’t want to go back as some sort of invalid. I was 25 (I celebrated my birthday in a medicated fog watching Friends reruns), not 60, and wanted to be thought of as the same guy when I returned. It took me a while to accept people’s sympathy and care for what it was, not a slight on me as a person. 
Going back to work was the best thing for me. Having a routine, people to talk to, and tangible tasks to complete was very medicinal. I had days when I’d wake up and feel frightened, when it would take me a couple of hours to shower and leave the house, but nobody questioned me. I called Gregg a few times from the warehouse—being in the place where my reality had started to slip was, on occasions, pretty odd—and he wasn’t always available, but sometimes just leaving him a message was enough. Eventually, he said I didn’t need to come and see him anymore—that he trusted me to work through the thoughts and techniques on my own. 
It’s a year on now, and I’ve not relapsed. I’ll have to take this medication for a long time, I think, but I’m OK with that. I have precious little sex drive (even though I can still get it up) and have put on a bit of weight, but those are small prices to pay for clarity of mind.
I wanted to tell this story because, until I became schizophrenic, the word represented a death sentence in my mind. When you hear of people being schizophrenic, you imagine them locked in rooms with padded walls, rocking backwards and forwards into a two-dimensional future of heavily-medicated conversations and drool-covered pillows. You imagine a future of hearing voices and seeing phantoms. This is far from the case if it’s treated well. With the right treatment, and especially if it’s caught early, you can recover incredibly well from acute schizophrenia, as you can from other mental illnesses. 
I’m realistic about my prognosis: I might have a relapse at some point in the future, and do sometimes feel depressed about that. But now I know that I can recover well, it’s less scary. I’m back at work, socializing, keeping fit, and playing soccer like I was a year ago. I’ve even been on vacation. I’m not quite ready to move out of home yet, but that might be due to laziness more than anything. 
My biggest piece of advice to anyone who starts to experience any psychological symptoms they’re not used to is to tell someone. Anyone. Make it a conversation rather than something you carry around yourself. Mental illness is no different from physical illness—it just involves a different organ: the brain. Don’t worry about asking for time off work, or about telling your boss that you’re feeling unwell, like I did. Looking back, hallucinating that invisible phones were ringing when I still had some grip on reality should have made me reach out to someone. Shame can play no part when it comes to looking after your mental well-being, and we should be as finely tuned to our mental symptoms as we are to our physical ones. Being a master of disguise, like I was to even my own mom, is nothing to be proud of.
If you’re feeling out of sorts, talk to your doctor. Demand emergency appointments if you have to. Even if you think it sounds silly, or like something that will blow over, telling someone about how you’re feeling is the best thing you can do. I was dealt with as a psychiatric emergency, and as we all know, the hospital is astounding in an emergency. I don’t know what it’s like for others that don’t present like I did (I’ve read all sorts of horror stories about shoddy, delayed treatment online), but I do know that staying silent about feeling unwell is the worst thing you can do. People are always far more sympathetic than you think they’ll be.
It’s 2014. We need to stop treating mental illness as something taboo, something that will stain us forever. And that can only start with ourselves. 
*This and other names have been changed.
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog. Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

This Is What Developing Acute Schizophrenia Feels Like
By Daniel Smith, Vice

A year ago this winter, I began to not recognize myself. 

Sleep was the first thing to change. Progressively, over the course of about two weeks, I began struggling to drift off. As a 24-year-old man with a good supply of hash, this had never been a problem before. It was so odd. Seemingly out of the blue, I’d get into bed at night and not be able to shut off my brain. Thoughts would grow tendrils and loop onto other thoughts, tangling together like a big wall of ivy. Some nights, I’d pull the covers over my head, grab my face hard in my hands, and whisper, “Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Eventually I would be able to get to sleep, but I’d wake up feeling peculiar, like I had forgotten to do or tell someone something. Hunger wasn’t as aggressive as it usually was during this time, either. Normally I bolt downstairs to pour a heaping bowl of Frosted Flakes the second my eyes open. Instead, I woke each morning with a sick, creeping feeling in my gut. Still, I carried on as normal, thinking I’d just lay off the hash for a bit. That was probably it. I wasn’t panicked. 

I carried on my work at a local wine shop and tried to push what was happening during the night to the back of my mind. I got through the days OK, if slightly bleary-eyed—but looking back now I can see that I had started to struggle with simple conversations. 

If my boss told me to check a delivery, it’d take me a few seconds to process what he was saying, like two or three people had said it at the same time and I couldn’t make out the clear instruction. Looking at morning delivery slips and trying to make sense of them in my head was like trying to make out a tree in the fog—possible, but hard.

Everything felt misty. I started to think that stuff was about to fall all the time—I’d look at a shelf of bottles and see one or two about to topple over, then look again and they’d be fine. I also kept thinking I could hear phones ringing, at all different pitches, even though there were no phones in the warehouse. Again, I wasn’t panicking yet—I just told everyone who asked if I was OK that I wasn’t sleeping well and thought it was all down to that. Sleep deprivation does weird things to people. A friend at work gave me some sleeping pills to try out, and they seemed to help for a bit, even though I’d wake up and feel like my head was full of wool. I stopped caring about going to bars or playing soccer on the weekends. All I wanted to do was sleep. Conversations were too much work. 

I’d say it probably took two months from that initial sleeplessness for me to actually think there was something seriously wrong with me. The thought octopuses, as I ended up calling them, got weirder and weirder at night. I’d have the TV on and start being unable to identify what was noise coming from the screen and what was my own noise. It was frightening. One night, while watchingHomeland (of all the shows), I had what I thought at the time was a panic attack. I knew what a panic attack was because one of the girls I used to go out with had them—she once had to lie down in the movie theater and do deep breathing to stop herself from retching. It was horrible to watch. That night in bed, though, I started trembling like it was freezing cold—only my skin was boiling. My legs shook against the bed sheets and there was this cacophony in my head, like a crowd of people were chatting beside my pillow. Nothing dramatic, just a steady, confusing noise. By the flickering light of the TV, I began to lose my mind. 

I didn’t sleep at all that night. I felt paralyzed. My bedroom door had become the very end of my world, like the paper set Jim Carrey rows into in the final scene of The Truman Show. The noise came and went in waves, but it felt like someone, or something, had replaced my body and mind. It wasn’t me who was too scared to go to the bathroom to piss, so I decided to do it into an empty glass, spilling it all over the floor. It wasn’t me who threw all my bed sheets off, only feeling comfortable completely naked against the bare mattress. It wasn’t me who pressed the tip of a boxcutter into my heel to try and snap myself out of the despair. In that room, as the sun came up and my alarm went off for work, I thought, I need my mom.

Luckily, she was only a staircase away. I hadn’t gotten myself together to move out of home yet—couldn’t afford to, really. I called her from my phone because I thought that if I left my bedroom my insides were going to fall out. I genuinely believed crossing the threshold of my bedroom doorframe into the hallway would make my skull come apart and my bowels fall out of me like a bucket of pig swill. She answered the phone and said, “Oh for goodness sake, Daniel,* stop messing around,” or something similar. I started crying, apparently in big, whooping sobs like a little boy, and heard her throwing her phone on the floor through the ceiling. 

When she opened my door, she gasped. I don’t remember doing it, but apparently I’d pulled apart my TV remotes (I had, like, four of them) and my bare mattress was covered in little circuit boards, piss, and blood (from my heel). I sat there in my underwear, crying, and told her that I’d been “taken over.” She called an ambulance. 

Again, I don’t really remember this properly, but apparently when the paramedics arrived I thought they were both taking pictures of me. I got really angry and tried to punch them. I screamed at one of them, telling him it was against the law to take my photo and that I had rights, all while seated in a pair of soaking wet boxer shorts with blood all over my leg.

All I remember from the drive to the hospital is my mom holding my legs down against the bed, but she says I was screaming that I didn’t want to be driven on the highway because there were people crouched inside the speed cameras. My memories of the hospital that night are colorless flashes of needles, soft voices, and arm restraints. 

All the above is what’s called a psychotic episode, and it’s emblematic of acute schizophrenia—the illness I was diagnosed with. Psychosis is defined as someone having a loss of contact with reality. It can happen quickly, or—most commonly in those who develop schizophrenia—can be a slow burner and then suddenly snap. That’s what happened to me. I was hospitalized for about a week and a half and started on a course of antipsychotic medication immediately. I don’t remember much of this time, either, only that I felt sick a lot and found it hard to talk to anyone. Oh, and that the guy in the room next to me constantly shat himself on purpose. The smell was like the death I felt in my brain.

I remember the day I started to feel like I’d clicked back into reality, when the new chemicals I was taking found their footing in my body and didn’t just make me want to cover my head in blankets and sleep. My brother came in to see me with my mom (they’d been coming in every day but mostly just talked to the doctors and nurses—I was incapable of conversation), and we watched three episodes of Breaking Bad in a row on the iPad in the visitor’s lounge. My mom held it against her knees with one hand, while occasionally stroking the back of my neck with the other. I laughed at something Saul said and felt like I might be getting somewhere, like the curtains that had been drawn on who I once was were starting to flicker. I even ate a full meal that evening, and I’ll now never take mashed potatoes for granted again.

The road to recovery was filled with potholes. Namely, debilitating panic attacks when I had flashes of what had happened weeks previous. But the mental health team at my local NHS hospital were amazing—save a couple of nurses who treated me like a baby. I hated that. Once I was allowed home I had a social worker come and see me every week to check on the medication, ask about what I was doing each day, and encourage me to go for walks with my mom and start talking to my friends again. I’d been too embarrassed to, and thought they wouldn’t understand. Or, worse, just write me off as a nutjob. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

My best friend, Sam, said he’d been so worried about me that he actually hadn’t been sleeping at night. Stupid bastard. One by one they all started texting me again—I think they’d been frightened of saying the wrong thing, mostly—and said they couldn’t wait to start playing soccer again, that I’d be back on my skinny legs in no time. It was amazing how mature they all seemed.

The mental health unit arranged a course of outpatient therapy with a straight-talking man called Gregg. The antipsychotics were really sedating for a while, and I often felt like I was wading through molasses, but there was a strange calm in my brain that I’d not felt for months and months. Gregg helped make sense of what had happened to me, teaching me techniques for when panicked thoughts came into my brain about that night when I snapped (he says it’s unhelpful to talk about “losing” your mind—the mind is still there, it just got ill) and how to not live in fear of it happening again. He encouraged me to start seeing my friends again and told me about how the mind doesn’t stay the same, how it’s possible for it to recover, and that the medication had worked so would continue to work, but that I had to be realistic with myself and accept that I had become ill. All I needed was time.

Accepting it was the biggest thing, actually. Frustration is, as I’ve learned, too close to anxiety. On the days when I’d go out for a walk (my mom made me go every afternoon for at least an hour, leaving me on my own halfway through and giving me a task, like buying a pint of milk or some butter) and start thinking about everything, thoughts would flash into my brain: For fuck’s sake, why can’t you just be normal? I had to stop, inhale a few times and say to myself out loud, “I am normal. I just got sick and am having a break.”

Within about six weeks of leaving the hospital, I started going to my friends’ houses again. I always felt a little twinge of discomfort when the TV was too loud, or when everyone talked at once, but I just told them when I felt strange. No one laughed at me. No one pitied me, either, which was amazing. I feel like if one of them had gotten sick like I had, I’d be like an overbearing mother, constantly asking if they were all right. 

Within ten weeks I was back at work part-time. My boss couldn’t have been more sympathetic. Apparently, when I went into the hospital he called my mom to let me know that the job was waiting for me as soon as I felt well enough, and that I could take it at my own pace. Initially this made me angry—I didn’t want to go back as some sort of invalid. I was 25 (I celebrated my birthday in a medicated fog watching Friends reruns), not 60, and wanted to be thought of as the same guy when I returned. It took me a while to accept people’s sympathy and care for what it was, not a slight on me as a person. 

Going back to work was the best thing for me. Having a routine, people to talk to, and tangible tasks to complete was very medicinal. I had days when I’d wake up and feel frightened, when it would take me a couple of hours to shower and leave the house, but nobody questioned me. I called Gregg a few times from the warehouse—being in the place where my reality had started to slip was, on occasions, pretty odd—and he wasn’t always available, but sometimes just leaving him a message was enough. Eventually, he said I didn’t need to come and see him anymore—that he trusted me to work through the thoughts and techniques on my own. 

It’s a year on now, and I’ve not relapsed. I’ll have to take this medication for a long time, I think, but I’m OK with that. I have precious little sex drive (even though I can still get it up) and have put on a bit of weight, but those are small prices to pay for clarity of mind.

I wanted to tell this story because, until I became schizophrenic, the word represented a death sentence in my mind. When you hear of people being schizophrenic, you imagine them locked in rooms with padded walls, rocking backwards and forwards into a two-dimensional future of heavily-medicated conversations and drool-covered pillows. You imagine a future of hearing voices and seeing phantoms. This is far from the case if it’s treated well. With the right treatment, and especially if it’s caught early, you can recover incredibly well from acute schizophrenia, as you can from other mental illnesses. 

I’m realistic about my prognosis: I might have a relapse at some point in the future, and do sometimes feel depressed about that. But now I know that I can recover well, it’s less scary. I’m back at work, socializing, keeping fit, and playing soccer like I was a year ago. I’ve even been on vacation. I’m not quite ready to move out of home yet, but that might be due to laziness more than anything. 

My biggest piece of advice to anyone who starts to experience any psychological symptoms they’re not used to is to tell someone. Anyone. Make it a conversation rather than something you carry around yourself. Mental illness is no different from physical illness—it just involves a different organ: the brain. Don’t worry about asking for time off work, or about telling your boss that you’re feeling unwell, like I did. Looking back, hallucinating that invisible phones were ringing when I still had some grip on reality should have made me reach out to someone. Shame can play no part when it comes to looking after your mental well-being, and we should be as finely tuned to our mental symptoms as we are to our physical ones. Being a master of disguise, like I was to even my own mom, is nothing to be proud of.

If you’re feeling out of sorts, talk to your doctor. Demand emergency appointments if you have to. Even if you think it sounds silly, or like something that will blow over, telling someone about how you’re feeling is the best thing you can do. I was dealt with as a psychiatric emergency, and as we all know, the hospital is astounding in an emergency. I don’t know what it’s like for others that don’t present like I did (I’ve read all sorts of horror stories about shoddy, delayed treatment online), but I do know that staying silent about feeling unwell is the worst thing you can do. People are always far more sympathetic than you think they’ll be.

It’s 2014. We need to stop treating mental illness as something taboo, something that will stain us forever. And that can only start with ourselves. 

*This and other names have been changed.

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog
Click Here
 to access original SMI Blog content

Filed under story stories recover recovery hope mental health mental health mental illness illness healthy wellness mind body brain thought thoughts emotion emotions feeling feelings psychology schizophrenia schizophrenic psychosis psychotic trauma ptsd post traumatic post traumatic stress

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Why Doctors Need StoriesBy Peter D. Kramer, The New York Times Opinion Pages
 A FEW weeks ago, I received an email from the Danish psychiatrist Per Bech that had an unexpected attachment: a story about a patient. I have been writing a book about antidepressants — how well they work and how we know. Dr. Bech is an innovator in clinical psychometrics, the science of measuring change in conditions like depression. Generally, he forwards material about statistics.
Now he had shared a recently published case vignette. It concerned a man hospitalized at age 30 in 1954 for what today we call severe panic attacks. The treatment, which included “narcoanalysis” (interviewing aided by a “truth serum”), afforded no relief. On discharge, the man turned to alcohol. Later, when sober again, he endured increasing phobias, depression and social isolation.
Four decades later, in 1995, suicidal thoughts brought this anxious man back into the psychiatric system, at age 70. For the first time, he was put on an antidepressant, Zoloft. Six weeks out, both the panic attacks and the depression were gone. He resumed work, entered into a social life and remained well for the next 19 years — until his death.
If the narrative was striking, so was its inclusion in a medical journal. In the past 20 years, clinical vignettes have lost their standing. For a variety of reasons, including a heightened awareness of medical error and a focus on cost cutting, we have entered an era in which a narrow, demanding version of evidence-based medicine prevails. As a writer who likes to tell stories, I’ve been made painfully aware of the shift. The inclusion of a single anecdote in a research overview can lead to a reprimand, for reliance on storytelling.
My own view is that we need storytelling in medicine, need it for any number of reasons.
Repeatedly, I have been surprised by the impact that even lightly sketched case histories can have on readers. In my book “Listening to Prozac,” I wrote about personality and how it might change on medication. “Should You Leave?” concerned theories of intimacy. Readers, however, often used the books for a different purpose: identifying depression. Regularly, I received — and still receive — phone calls: “My husband is just like — ” one or another figure from a clinical example. For a decade and more, public health campaigns had circulated symptom lists meant to get people to recognize mood disorders, and still there remained a role for narrative to complete the job.
Other readers wrote to say that they’d recognized themselves. Seeing that they were not alone gave them hope. Encouragement is another benefit of case description, familiar to us in this age of memoir.
But vignettes can do more than illustrate and reassure. They convey what doctors see and hear, and those reports can set a research agenda.
Consider my experience prescribing Prozac. When it was introduced, certain of my patients, as they recovered from their depression or obsessionality, made note of personality effects. These patients said that, in responding to treatment, they had become “myself at last” or “better than baseline” — often, less socially withdrawn. I presented these examples first in essays for psychiatrists and then in my book, where I surrounded the narrative material with accounts of research. (Findings in cell biology, animal ethology and personality theory suggested that such antidepressants, which altered the way the brain handled serotonin, might increase assertiveness.)
My loosely buttressed descriptions — and colleagues’ similar observations — led in time to controlled trials that confirmed the “better than well” phenomenon. (One study of depressed patientsfound that Paxil drastically decreased their “neuroticism,” or emotional instability. Patients who became “better than well” appeared to gain extra protection from further bouts of mood disorder.) But doctors had not waited for controlled trials. In advance, the better-than-well hypothesis had served as a tentative fact. Treating depression, colleagues looked out for personality change, even aimed for it. Because clinical observations often do pan out, they serve as low-level evidence — especially if they jibe with what basic science suggests is likely.
To be sure, this approach, giving weight to the combination of doctors’ experience and biological plausibility, stands somewhat in conflict with the principles of evidence-based medicine. The movement’s manifesto, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992, proclaimed a new era that would see near-exclusive reliance on systematic clinical research — the direct assessment of treatments in patients. But even the manifesto conceded that less formal expertise would remain important in areas of practice that had not been subject to high-level testing.
THAT concession covers much of the territory. Making decisions about prescribing, often I exhaust the guidance that trials can give — and then I consult experts who tell me about this case and that outcome. Practicing psychotherapy, I employ methods that will never be subject to formal assessment. Among my teachers I number colleagues I know only through their descriptions of patient encounters. One psychoanalyst, Hellmuth Kaiser, imparted his wisdom through a fictional case portrayed in a stage play. I follow his precepts daily, hourly.
I have long felt isolated in this position, embracing stories, which is why I warm to the possibility that the vignette is making a comeback. This summer, Oxford University Press began publishing a journal devoted to case reports. And this month, in an unusual move, the New England Journal of Medicine, the field’s bellwether, opened an issue with a case history involving a troubled mother, daughter and grandson. The contributors write: “Data are important, of course, but numbers sometimes imply an order to what is happening that can be misleading. Stories are better at capturing a different type of ‘big picture.’ ”
Stories capture small pictures, too. I’m thinking of the anxious older man given Zoloft. That narrative has power. As Dr. Bech and his co-author, Lone Lindberg, point out, spontaneous recovery from panic and depression late in life is rare. (Even those who put great stock in placebo pills don’t imagine that they do much for conditions that are severe and chronic.) The degree of transformation in the Danish patient is impressive. So is the length of observation. No formal research can offer a 40-year lead-in or a 19-year follow-up. Few studies report on both symptoms and social progress. Research reduces information about many people; vignette retains the texture of life in one of its forms.
How far should stories inform practice? Faced with an elderly patient who was anxious, withdrawn and never medicated, a well-read doctor might weigh many potential sources of guidance, this vignette among them. Often the knowledge that informs clinical decisions emerges, like a pointillist image, from the coalescence of scattered information.
HERE is where I want to venture a radical statement about the worth of anecdote. Beyond its roles as illustration, affirmation, hypothesis-builder and low-level guidance for practice, storytelling can act as a modest counterbalance to a straitened understanding of evidence.
Take psychotherapy. Most of the research into its efficacy concerns cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., the treatment that teaches patients to moderate their habitual maladaptive thoughts. The reasons for this concentration are historical and temperamental. C.B.T. is rooted in a branch of psychology devoted to research, and the school of therapy attracts students who favor the practical and systematic over the spontaneous and poetic. There are no trials of existential psychotherapy.
But where the comparison has been made — primarily in the treatment of depression — C.B.T. does not outperform alternative approaches. (The alternatives tested are mostly distant derivatives of psychoanalysis.) And detailed research suggests that where C.B.T. works, specific techniques are not the reason. Studies of the components of therapy find that it is factors common to all schools, like the practitioner’s commitment and the alliance with the patient, that do the job.
If we weigh “evidence” by the pound or the page, we risk moving toward a monoculture of C.B.T., a result I would consider unfortunate, since there are many ways to influence people for the better. Here’s where case description shines. We hear the existential psychoanalyst Leston Havens describe his use of imitative statements, exclamations by the therapist that seem to come from within the patient: “What isone supposed to do?” For me, Dr. Havens’s approach — sitting beside the patient metaphorically and looking outward, hand-crafting interventions on the spot — carries what I call psychological plausibility. The vignette corresponds to a convincing account of how people change.
It has been my hope that, while we wait for conclusive science, stories will preserve diversity in our theories of mind. For 17 years, starting in the 1980s, I ran a psychotherapy seminar for psychiatry residents. As readings, I assigned only case vignettes, trusting that one or another would speak to each trainee.
My recent reading of outcome trials of antidepressants has strengthened my suspicion that the line between research and storytelling can be fuzzy. In psychiatry — and the same is true throughout medicine — randomized trials are rarely large enough to provide guidance on their own. Statisticians amalgamate many studies through a technique called meta-analysis. The first step of the process, deciding which data to include, colors the findings. On occasion, the design of a meta-analysis stacks the deck for or against a treatment. The resulting charts are polemical. Effectively, the numbers arenarrative.
Because so little evidence stands on its own, incorporating research results into clinical practice requires discernment. Thoughtful doctors consider data, accompanying narrative, plausibility and, yes, clinical anecdote in their decision making. To put the same matter differently, evidence-based medicine, properly enacted, is judgment-based medicine in which randomized trials, carefully assessed, are given their due.
I don’t think that psychiatry — or, again, medicine in general — need be apologetic about this state of affairs. Our substantial formal findings require integration. The danger is in pretending otherwise. It would be unfortunate if psychiatry moved fully — prematurely — to squeeze the art out of its science. And it would be unfortunate if we marginalized the case vignette. We need storytelling, to set us in the clinical moment, remind us of the variety of human experience and enrich our judgment.
Peter D. Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University, is the author of several books, including “Against Depression” and “Listening to Prozac.”

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog. 
Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Why Doctors Need Stories
By Peter D. Kramer, The New York Times Opinion Pages

 A FEW weeks ago, I received an email from the Danish psychiatrist Per Bech that had an unexpected attachment: a story about a patient. I have been writing a book about antidepressants — how well they work and how we know. Dr. Bech is an innovator in clinical psychometrics, the science of measuring change in conditions like depression. Generally, he forwards material about statistics.

Now he had shared a recently published case vignette. It concerned a man hospitalized at age 30 in 1954 for what today we call severe panic attacks. The treatment, which included “narcoanalysis” (interviewing aided by a “truth serum”), afforded no relief. On discharge, the man turned to alcohol. Later, when sober again, he endured increasing phobias, depression and social isolation.

Four decades later, in 1995, suicidal thoughts brought this anxious man back into the psychiatric system, at age 70. For the first time, he was put on an antidepressant, Zoloft. Six weeks out, both the panic attacks and the depression were gone. He resumed work, entered into a social life and remained well for the next 19 years — until his death.

If the narrative was striking, so was its inclusion in a medical journal. In the past 20 years, clinical vignettes have lost their standing. For a variety of reasons, including a heightened awareness of medical error and a focus on cost cutting, we have entered an era in which a narrow, demanding version of evidence-based medicine prevails. As a writer who likes to tell stories, I’ve been made painfully aware of the shift. The inclusion of a single anecdote in a research overview can lead to a reprimand, for reliance on storytelling.

My own view is that we need storytelling in medicine, need it for any number of reasons.

Repeatedly, I have been surprised by the impact that even lightly sketched case histories can have on readers. In my book “Listening to Prozac,” I wrote about personality and how it might change on medication. “Should You Leave?” concerned theories of intimacy. Readers, however, often used the books for a different purpose: identifying depression. Regularly, I received — and still receive — phone calls: “My husband is just like — ” one or another figure from a clinical example. For a decade and more, public health campaigns had circulated symptom lists meant to get people to recognize mood disorders, and still there remained a role for narrative to complete the job.

Other readers wrote to say that they’d recognized themselves. Seeing that they were not alone gave them hope. Encouragement is another benefit of case description, familiar to us in this age of memoir.

But vignettes can do more than illustrate and reassure. They convey what doctors see and hear, and those reports can set a research agenda.

Consider my experience prescribing Prozac. When it was introduced, certain of my patients, as they recovered from their depression or obsessionality, made note of personality effects. These patients said that, in responding to treatment, they had become “myself at last” or “better than baseline” — often, less socially withdrawn. I presented these examples first in essays for psychiatrists and then in my book, where I surrounded the narrative material with accounts of research. (Findings in cell biology, animal ethology and personality theory suggested that such antidepressants, which altered the way the brain handled serotonin, might increase assertiveness.)

My loosely buttressed descriptions — and colleagues’ similar observations — led in time to controlled trials that confirmed the “better than well” phenomenon. (One study of depressed patientsfound that Paxil drastically decreased their “neuroticism,” or emotional instability. Patients who became “better than well” appeared to gain extra protection from further bouts of mood disorder.) But doctors had not waited for controlled trials. In advance, the better-than-well hypothesis had served as a tentative fact. Treating depression, colleagues looked out for personality change, even aimed for it. Because clinical observations often do pan out, they serve as low-level evidence — especially if they jibe with what basic science suggests is likely.

To be sure, this approach, giving weight to the combination of doctors’ experience and biological plausibility, stands somewhat in conflict with the principles of evidence-based medicine. The movement’s manifesto, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1992, proclaimed a new era that would see near-exclusive reliance on systematic clinical research — the direct assessment of treatments in patients. But even the manifesto conceded that less formal expertise would remain important in areas of practice that had not been subject to high-level testing.

THAT concession covers much of the territory. Making decisions about prescribing, often I exhaust the guidance that trials can give — and then I consult experts who tell me about this case and that outcome. Practicing psychotherapy, I employ methods that will never be subject to formal assessment. Among my teachers I number colleagues I know only through their descriptions of patient encounters. One psychoanalyst, Hellmuth Kaiser, imparted his wisdom through a fictional case portrayed in a stage play. I follow his precepts daily, hourly.

I have long felt isolated in this position, embracing stories, which is why I warm to the possibility that the vignette is making a comeback. This summer, Oxford University Press began publishing a journal devoted to case reports. And this month, in an unusual move, the New England Journal of Medicine, the field’s bellwether, opened an issue with a case history involving a troubled mother, daughter and grandson. The contributors write: “Data are important, of course, but numbers sometimes imply an order to what is happening that can be misleading. Stories are better at capturing a different type of ‘big picture.’ ”

Stories capture small pictures, too. I’m thinking of the anxious older man given Zoloft. That narrative has power. As Dr. Bech and his co-author, Lone Lindberg, point out, spontaneous recovery from panic and depression late in life is rare. (Even those who put great stock in placebo pills don’t imagine that they do much for conditions that are severe and chronic.) The degree of transformation in the Danish patient is impressive. So is the length of observation. No formal research can offer a 40-year lead-in or a 19-year follow-up. Few studies report on both symptoms and social progress. Research reduces information about many people; vignette retains the texture of life in one of its forms.

How far should stories inform practice? Faced with an elderly patient who was anxious, withdrawn and never medicated, a well-read doctor might weigh many potential sources of guidance, this vignette among them. Often the knowledge that informs clinical decisions emerges, like a pointillist image, from the coalescence of scattered information.

HERE is where I want to venture a radical statement about the worth of anecdote. Beyond its roles as illustration, affirmation, hypothesis-builder and low-level guidance for practice, storytelling can act as a modest counterbalance to a straitened understanding of evidence.

Take psychotherapy. Most of the research into its efficacy concerns cognitive behavioral therapy, or C.B.T., the treatment that teaches patients to moderate their habitual maladaptive thoughts. The reasons for this concentration are historical and temperamental. C.B.T. is rooted in a branch of psychology devoted to research, and the school of therapy attracts students who favor the practical and systematic over the spontaneous and poetic. There are no trials of existential psychotherapy.

But where the comparison has been made — primarily in the treatment of depression — C.B.T. does not outperform alternative approaches. (The alternatives tested are mostly distant derivatives of psychoanalysis.) And detailed research suggests that where C.B.T. works, specific techniques are not the reason. Studies of the components of therapy find that it is factors common to all schools, like the practitioner’s commitment and the alliance with the patient, that do the job.

If we weigh “evidence” by the pound or the page, we risk moving toward a monoculture of C.B.T., a result I would consider unfortunate, since there are many ways to influence people for the better. Here’s where case description shines. We hear the existential psychoanalyst Leston Havens describe his use of imitative statements, exclamations by the therapist that seem to come from within the patient: “What isone supposed to do?” For me, Dr. Havens’s approach — sitting beside the patient metaphorically and looking outward, hand-crafting interventions on the spot — carries what I call psychological plausibility. The vignette corresponds to a convincing account of how people change.

It has been my hope that, while we wait for conclusive science, stories will preserve diversity in our theories of mind. For 17 years, starting in the 1980s, I ran a psychotherapy seminar for psychiatry residents. As readings, I assigned only case vignettes, trusting that one or another would speak to each trainee.

My recent reading of outcome trials of antidepressants has strengthened my suspicion that the line between research and storytelling can be fuzzy. In psychiatry — and the same is true throughout medicine — randomized trials are rarely large enough to provide guidance on their own. Statisticians amalgamate many studies through a technique called meta-analysis. The first step of the process, deciding which data to include, colors the findings. On occasion, the design of a meta-analysis stacks the deck for or against a treatment. The resulting charts are polemical. Effectively, the numbers arenarrative.

Because so little evidence stands on its own, incorporating research results into clinical practice requires discernment. Thoughtful doctors consider data, accompanying narrative, plausibility and, yes, clinical anecdote in their decision making. To put the same matter differently, evidence-based medicine, properly enacted, is judgment-based medicine in which randomized trials, carefully assessed, are given their due.

I don’t think that psychiatry — or, again, medicine in general — need be apologetic about this state of affairs. Our substantial formal findings require integration. The danger is in pretending otherwise. It would be unfortunate if psychiatry moved fully — prematurely — to squeeze the art out of its science. And it would be unfortunate if we marginalized the case vignette. We need storytelling, to set us in the clinical moment, remind us of the variety of human experience and enrich our judgment.

Peter D. Kramer, a clinical professor of psychiatry at Brown University, is the author of several books, including “Against Depression” and “Listening to Prozac.”

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog

Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Filed under therapy therapist psychotherapy psychotherapist shink psychologist psychology psychiatrist psychiatry counselor counseling social worker social work mind body brain wellness recover recovery hope healthy mental health mental health mental illness illness diagnosis disorder

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Living with Schizophrenia: Two Musicians’ StoriesChannel 4 News
World Mental Health Day drove a massive social media spike in people discussing schizophrenia - but what is it like living with the condition? Channel 4 News spoke to two musicians.
The global event saw tweets on “mental health” rise from less than 10,000 per day normally to nearly 50,000, and tweets on “schizophrenia” increasing from 1,000 per day to over 4,000 on Friday.
But there are still many misconceptions associated with schizophrenia - most specifically that those who suffer from the mental health condition are dangerous.
Channel 4 News went to meet two mental health service users, both who have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, to ask about how the condition affects their daily lives (see video, above).
Devon Marsten (drums) and Roger Brooks (vocals) were both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early 20s. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in late teens or early 20s.
The pair play music at Sound Minds, a south London arts charity founded by Mr Marsten, and are also involved in a charity that provides peer-to-peer care for people with mental health difficulties who are leaving hospital.
'Dangerous'
One in four people suffer from mental health difficulties, and schizophrenia affects almost 300,000 people in the UK.
But media representations and a lack of knowledge about the condition, have created a reputation that those with schizophrenia are unstable or dangerous.
The Liberal Democrats have said they are prioritising mental health - with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announcing that mental health will be brought in line with other NHS services with the introduction of waiting time standards.
Under an initiative being brought in from April 2015, backed by £40m funding this year and £80m next year, people with mental health conditions will be guaranteed treatment in between six weeks and 18 weeks.
Last month a Channel 4 News investigation found that two-thirds of mental health trusts who responded to a Freedom on Information request had had their funding cut, and that a shortage of beds was threatening patient care.
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog. Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Living with Schizophrenia: Two Musicians’ Stories
Channel 4 News

World Mental Health Day drove a massive social media spike in people discussing schizophrenia - but what is it like living with the condition? Channel 4 News spoke to two musicians.

The global event saw tweets on “mental health” rise from less than 10,000 per day normally to nearly 50,000, and tweets on “schizophrenia” increasing from 1,000 per day to over 4,000 on Friday.

But there are still many misconceptions associated with schizophrenia - most specifically that those who suffer from the mental health condition are dangerous.

Channel 4 News went to meet two mental health service users, both who have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, to ask about how the condition affects their daily lives (see video, above).

Devon Marsten (drums) and Roger Brooks (vocals) were both diagnosed with schizophrenia in their early 20s. The condition is most commonly diagnosed in late teens or early 20s.

The pair play music at Sound Minds, a south London arts charity founded by Mr Marsten, and are also involved in a charity that provides peer-to-peer care for people with mental health difficulties who are leaving hospital.

'Dangerous'

One in four people suffer from mental health difficulties, and schizophrenia affects almost 300,000 people in the UK.

But media representations and a lack of knowledge about the condition, have created a reputation that those with schizophrenia are unstable or dangerous.

The Liberal Democrats have said they are prioritising mental health - with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg announcing that mental health will be brought in line with other NHS services with the introduction of waiting time standards.

Under an initiative being brought in from April 2015, backed by £40m funding this year and £80m next year, people with mental health conditions will be guaranteed treatment in between six weeks and 18 weeks.

Last month a Channel 4 News investigation found that two-thirds of mental health trusts who responded to a Freedom on Information request had had their funding cut, and that a shortage of beds was threatening patient care.

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog
Click Here
 to access original SMI Blog content

Filed under world mental health day mental health day mental health mental health healthy mind body brain wellness recovery recover hope treatment schizophrenia schizophrenic psychosis psychotic feeling feelings emotion emotions thought thoughts story stories trauma traumatic ptsd post traumatic

38 notes

Back in the Dark House Again: The Recurrent Nature of Clinical DepressionBy Douglas Bloch, Mad in America
“There is not one of us in whom a devil does not dwell. At some time, at some point, that devil masters each of us. It is not having been in the dark house, but having left it, that counts.”- Teddy Roosevelt
Eighteen years ago, in the fall of 1996, I plunged into a major depression that almost killed me. On the evening of my admittance to a psychiatric hospital I saw the above quote from a documentary on Teddy Roosevelt. For the next ten months, it informed my experience, as I did everything I could to leave the dark house I was in. Eventually, I was healed without medication and wrote about my experience in my memoir, When Going Through Hell…Don’t Stop: A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Clinical Depression.
Over the next eighteen years I took what I had learned in my healing and put together a mental health recovery program which I taught through my books, support groups and long distance telephone coaching. In the process, I counseled many people who were in the same desperate straights that I had been in. I shared with them what I had learned through my ordeal—that if you set the intention to heal, reach out for support, and use a combination of mutually supportive therapies to treat your symptoms, you will make it through this. And in the cases where people used these strategies and hung there, they eventually were able, like myself, to emerge from the hell of depression.
During this period, I was aware that that major depression was a recurring disorder, and that while one could successfully mange the symptoms, there was no cure. As Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon said,
“Depression is recurring and cyclic. What we have is treatments, not cures. You’re never really free of it; you always have to be prepared for a recurrence and be ready to stave it off as it could creep up on you.
Thus, I knew that I was still vulnerable, but after such a long period of “emotional sobriety,” I thought that I might have finally turned a corner.
Then one day, when I least expected it, a series of personal losses led me back into Roosevelt’s dark house. In the midst of my grief reaction, the old symptoms of depression–chronic sadness, lack of pleasure, disrupted sleep, loss of appetite, heaviness in the chest, lack of energy, hopelessness and periodic agitation—were all painfully present.
Now that I am back in the underworld, I am called upon to practice those very techniques that I had been teaching others. Of course I have been using these tools all along as part of my “maintenance program,” but now there is a big difference
I am using them not to stay out of hell, but rather to get out. What makes the latter far more difficult is that you cannot will yourself out of a clinical depression any more than you can will yourself out of a tumor or an advanced case of pneumonia. There is no ten-day course of “brain antibiotics” which you can take and have the condition clear up shortly. In my case, I have learned from my previous episodes that antidepressants do not work for me.
If, then, I cannot directly make the depression leave, what can I do? As I have told my clients, “You have to muddle through and hang in there until things improve. “ Here is how I am attempting to muddle through.
I start with AA’s serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Here is what I cannot control and must accept: the biochemical changes in my body and the painful sensations and feelings they bring.
Here is what can I control − how I respond to those sensations and feelings. Here is what I am doing at this time:
When I wake up and immediately feel depressed and hopeless, I recommit to my decision that I want to get well, even though I don’t know how.
Even though I feel as if a huge black bear is sitting on my chest, I still chose to sit up, step out of bed, and get on my stationary bike for 20 minutes.
Throughout the day, I make sure to reach to other people for support.
I have changed my appointment times with my therapist from once a month to once a week.
I continue to put one foot in front the other, despite feeling as if I am walking into a headwind.
When I look into the future and see no hope, I refocus my attention to the present and vow just to get through the day.
I affirm to myself, “This too shall pass.” I say to myself, “Right now you are in the acute phase of dealing with your grief. Things will get better over time.”
Finally, I am noticing those small bits of grace that come my way. For example, an old friend whom I had lost touch with found out about my plight. Now he calls me every day to check on my progress. In addition, at a recent talk I gave, a member f the audience who sensed what I am going through came up to me and said, “You have to come out of this. What other possibility is there?”
Those words reminded me what a social worker told me during one of my hospital stays–‘The best predictor of the future is the past. You have emerged from these episodes before, and you will do so again.”
Meanwhile, I am still in the dark house. I have been in this prison for two months. I don’t know how much time I have left before the cosmic warden will grant me a reprieve. But I have faith that if I keep “muddling through” and do the things that support my healing then one day, when I least expect it, that reprieve will be granted and I will emerge from the darkness into the light.
For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.Click Here to access original SMI Blog content

Back in the Dark House Again: The Recurrent Nature of Clinical Depression
By , Mad in America

“There is not one of us in whom a devil does not dwell.
At some time, at some point, that devil masters each of us.
It is not having been in the dark house,
but having left it, that counts.”

- Teddy Roosevelt

Eighteen years ago, in the fall of 1996, I plunged into a major depression that almost killed me. On the evening of my admittance to a psychiatric hospital I saw the above quote from a documentary on Teddy Roosevelt. For the next ten months, it informed my experience, as I did everything I could to leave the dark house I was in. Eventually, I was healed without medication and wrote about my experience in my memoir, When Going Through Hell…Don’t Stop: A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Clinical Depression.

Over the next eighteen years I took what I had learned in my healing and put together a mental health recovery program which I taught through my books, support groups and long distance telephone coaching. In the process, I counseled many people who were in the same desperate straights that I had been in. I shared with them what I had learned through my ordeal—that if you set the intention to heal, reach out for support, and use a combination of mutually supportive therapies to treat your symptoms, you will make it through this. And in the cases where people used these strategies and hung there, they eventually were able, like myself, to emerge from the hell of depression.

During this period, I was aware that that major depression was a recurring disorder, and that while one could successfully mange the symptoms, there was no cure. As Andrew Solomon, author of The Noonday Demon said,

“Depression is recurring and cyclic. What we have is treatments, not cures. You’re never really free of it; you always have to be prepared for a recurrence and be ready to stave it off as it could creep up on you.

Thus, I knew that I was still vulnerable, but after such a long period of “emotional sobriety,” I thought that I might have finally turned a corner.

Then one day, when I least expected it, a series of personal losses led me back into Roosevelt’s dark house. In the midst of my grief reaction, the old symptoms of depression–chronic sadness, lack of pleasure, disrupted sleep, loss of appetite, heaviness in the chest, lack of energy, hopelessness and periodic agitation—were all painfully present.

Now that I am back in the underworld, I am called upon to practice those very techniques that I had been teaching others. Of course I have been using these tools all along as part of my “maintenance program,” but now there is a big difference

I am using them not to stay out of hell, but rather to get out. What makes the latter far more difficult is that you cannot will yourself out of a clinical depression any more than you can will yourself out of a tumor or an advanced case of pneumonia. There is no ten-day course of “brain antibiotics” which you can take and have the condition clear up shortly. In my case, I have learned from my previous episodes that antidepressants do not work for me.

If, then, I cannot directly make the depression leave, what can I do? As I have told my clients, “You have to muddle through and hang in there until things improve. “ Here is how I am attempting to muddle through.

I start with AA’s serenity prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Here is what I cannot control and must accept: the biochemical changes in my body and the painful sensations and feelings they bring.

Here is what can I control − how I respond to those sensations and feelings. Here is what I am doing at this time:

  • When I wake up and immediately feel depressed and hopeless, I recommit to my decision that I want to get well, even though I don’t know how.
  • Even though I feel as if a huge black bear is sitting on my chest, I still chose to sit up, step out of bed, and get on my stationary bike for 20 minutes.
  • Throughout the day, I make sure to reach to other people for support.
  • I have changed my appointment times with my therapist from once a month to once a week.
  • I continue to put one foot in front the other, despite feeling as if I am walking into a headwind.
  • When I look into the future and see no hope, I refocus my attention to the present and vow just to get through the day.
  • I affirm to myself, “This too shall pass.” I say to myself, “Right now you are in the acute phase of dealing with your grief. Things will get better over time.”
  • Finally, I am noticing those small bits of grace that come my way. For example, an old friend whom I had lost touch with found out about my plight. Now he calls me every day to check on my progress. In addition, at a recent talk I gave, a member f the audience who sensed what I am going through came up to me and said, “You have to come out of this. What other possibility is there?”

Those words reminded me what a social worker told me during one of my hospital stays–‘The best predictor of the future is the past. You have emerged from these episodes before, and you will do so again.”

Meanwhile, I am still in the dark house. I have been in this prison for two months. I don’t know how much time I have left before the cosmic warden will grant me a reprieve. But I have faith that if I keep “muddling through” and do the things that support my healing then one day, when I least expect it, that reprieve will be granted and I will emerge from the darkness into the light.

For more mental health resources, Click Here to access the Serious Mental Illness Blog.
Click Here
 to access original SMI Blog content

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